If we were to believe everything we saw in television commercials, we'd think that we live in a society where people laugh endlessly and everybody's having a great time. The truth is that most of us aren't laughing all that much. In fact, Americans come in No. 11 in a survey of worldwide humor.

The top laughers in the world are Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. It's hard to believe that individuals who come from a climate that is so challenging have that much to laugh about, especially if you listen to the weather whining that goes on in New England. Most of the Northeast waits for a balmy day before it can even conjure up a smile. I believe that ultimately it is our culture that drives us to be more dour. After all, it's pretty hard to crank out those guffaws when we're constantly on the go and all we seen to care about is accomplishing as much as possible. When I ask my workshop participants why they're not laughing more, they give me the following excuses:

  • They're too busy. Let's face it, will we ever not be busy? Maybe at our funeral!
  • We're afraid of appearing foolish, inappropriate or nonfunctioning. I don't know who we think is watching us, but they're just as busy, so why would they bother being concerned about what we're doing.
  • Our own inner critics. Many of us were brought up with parents who thought levity had a time frame. Haven't we all heard the following: "You're having too much fun."
  • The need to be viewed as an overly responsible individual. After all, if you're not producing, you're a dud.
All this distorted thinking is creating millions of depressed people—people who feel like they live in a pressure cooker. When we give ourselves the opportunity to laugh and play and have fun along the way, we release the pressure. In essence, we let out some steam.

Don't allow yourself to wait to have some great healing giggles. Make sure it is part of your daily routine. If you're not that good at laughing at yourself or your minor irritations, gather some friends and have a laugh fest at your home once in awhile.

We often need reminders to not take ourselves too seriously. I wish every physician would prescribe a healthy dose of laughter to all his patients. It would make a significant difference in blood pressure, attitude and in how we handle stressful situation. I thank the stars above for my ability to be completely irreverent. It has been a blessing that has gotten me through the most difficult times. Remember: "He who laughs lasts."