Imagination and humor are two of the most important elements of human development. The healthiest and happiest people possess both these traits in abundance.
Dr. Norman cousins in his book Anatomy of an Illness describes how laughter helped him recover from ankylosing spondylitis, a painful and crippling collagen disease that attacks the connective tissues of the body. He began with the premise that if negative emotions were detrimental to your health, then positive emotions should improve health. Confined to bed and barely able to move, he watched old Marx Brothers movies and had nurses read him funny stories. He found that just ten minutes of solid belly laughter brought relief and he was able to sleep without pain. Eventually he completely overcame the disease.
When I returned from Vietnam, I was a very, very serious person, almost fatalistic. I couldn’t even laugh at any of the jokes my instructor made. I eventually realized that Taekwon-Do practice is part of a total approach to life and a way to deal with many different issues. A punch or a kick may not solve my problem, but laughter can.
Laughter is the best medicine. Medical studies show that laughter boosts endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, and suppresses levels of epinephrine, the stress hormone. “Laughter is an antidote to apprehension and panic,” says Dr. Cousins. Laughter is the body’s own natural pain reliever and tranquilizer – without side effects. Laughter has even been shown to increase disease-fighting proteins as well as the T-cells which strengthen the immune system.
It’s too bad more people don’t take advantage of this natural healer, because when you are happy and you are feeling good about yourself, you touch everybody around you with your presence. Sometimes when I see somebody in pain, I make a joke because I know if I can get them to laugh at me or themselves, it will help their pain.
I have taught children for over 35 years and I can tell you something about kids. No matter what their problem or issue, they will laugh at anything without shame. They intuitively know how to have a hearty belly laugh. Sometimes they laugh so hard they roll on the floor. Children seem to come into this world with an insatiable thirst for joy and fun and laughter. As grownups, we often forget our ability to laugh uproariously and spontaneously.
To laugh is a choice, even in dire circumstances. Let’s say you’re broke and just smashed up your car and you’re going through a messy divorce and your roof leaks.
One person will be miserable and stay miserable. Another person will be miserable for a few days and then decide it’s time to lighten up and find something to laugh about. The second person will be unhappy for a much shorter time, as well as being less likely to suffer the negative effects of stress on his body. The famed psychiatrist Victor Frankl said laughter saved his sanity amid the horrors of a World War II Nazi concentration camp. Each day he and a fellow prisoner would invent and tell each other an amusing anecdote. There are enough serious and difficult things in the world that we don’t need to look for them. We need to look for the things that make us laugh. A tremendous aid to your sense of humor is imagination. We’re not going to feel better by imagining dire circumstances and disastrous results, we’re going to get better when we laugh.
If you want to double or triple your existing knowledge, boost your sense of humor, and acquire a more creative approach to your life, you need to develop your imagination.
Imagination is essential to development and learning. Einstein’s ability to imagine helped him to become a giant among other intellectuals. Imagination is also important for a good memory. Every time you create a picture in your mind, you stimulate your ability to learn and remember.
You can stimulate your imagination in many ways. Use visualization to imagine anything you want – whether it’s to travel to another land, a new body, a business goal, a new relationship. As we’ve discussed before, the more complete and frequent your mental image, the more likely you are to achieve it. Everything starts as a dream and an image in the mind, from Einstein to the Wright Brothers.
You can also stimulate your imagination by writing in a journal, listening to a good story, or reading a children’s book.
Your imagination and your sense of humor go hand-in-hand. Humor is not in the situation—it’s in the eye of the beholder. “From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere,” points out Dr. Seuss, whose imagination has kept kids in stitches for generations. Look for laughter in your life. Dare to imagine.