Woman laughing
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As a part of her I'm Making It program, Sandra Magsamen shares daily activities that will help you live life with laughter and joy.
Laughter is an instant vacation.

It's no surprise that a UCLA study documented what we already knew to be true: On average, at age 5, we engage in creative tasks 98 times a day, laugh 113 times and ask 65 questions. By age 44, the numbers fade to two creative tasks a day, 11 laughs and six questions.

This study is shocking! What are we thinking? We can't go on like this—we need to rearrange those numbers and start laughing, playing and creating a lot more. Right now!

Miss the first 14 weeks?
To that end, this week we are bringing laughter—and therefore play—to the forefront of our minds, hearts and actions.

This week, you must increase the number of times you laugh. So laugh at nothing, at an old funny movie, a joke, a memory, a mishap, a mistake, a play or a comedian. Laugh with a friend and/or by yourself.

Write in your journal each day and share the details of what makes you laugh. Pay attention to what makes you smile, what makes you giggle and, of course, what makes you fall down in torrents of uncontrollable laughter.

Find out how you can put more laughter and play into your life
I heard an old saying that goes something like this: "Don't take life so seriously; no one gets out alive." I have to say there is real truth in that. Sure, get your work done and be serious when called for, but also make sure you put lots of laughter, play and fun back into your life.

Playing isn't just for kids anymore. You don't have to look far to see examples of play at work in the world. Look for role models who are successful at bringing play and laughter into their lives.

For example, it always makes me happy (and soulful) when I watch Ellen DeGeneres dance at the start of her show. Ellen is just being herself—her playful, creative self. She dances for the sheer fun of it, and then the audience starts standing up and dancing with her. Each day fans cheer for the ritual to continue. Dancing at the start of the show has become her signature—a way for Ellen the host to connect with her audience. Her carefree individual style of play has given others the permission to do the same.

So play, smile and laugh. As Mother Theresa said, "We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do," reminding us that a smile has great power to connect, to heal and to uplift...

My daughter and I were driving to the store when she was 11 or 12 years old, and I noticed she was waving to every car around us. I witnessed her smiling and I witnessed the people in the cars around us smiling and waving as well. When I asked her what she was doing, she replied, "The last time we went to the store, I waved at 25 people and 20 waved back. Today I waved at 30 people and 30 waved back and smiled." For my daughter on this day, her success was measured in smiles and greetings. Aren't smiles and greetings the measurement for joy and success for all of our lives?

Playfulness such as this rejuvenates and revitalizes you. It helps you to see the world from different points of view. It rekindles your optimism, encourages experimentation, invites laughter and renews your ability to be flexible and resilient. Play and laughter can help you make meaningful connections as you adapt to this changing world.

Remember, a day without laughter is a day wasted.

Continue on to Week 16
Individual acts of kindness and generosity of spirit change the world. Kindness is magical, and it is contagious. A single smile brings on another smile, a good-morning greeting ushers in another greeting. Thoughtfulness, consideration and care enhance our well-being and that of those around us. A gentle approach to living, where civility and respect are honored, is the foundation for any relationship to begin and grow.

Without kindness in our lives, the world can quickly turn cold, empty and negative. Kindness gives us hope, it connects us to each other and it reminds us of the beauty that lives within us all.

Being kind requires nothing but a desire to contribute to the world in a positive way. Simple acts of kindness and generosity of spirit require little effort, yet they touch our lives deeply and have a huge impact.

We have all had days when nothing seems to be going right, and then out of the blue, someone holds a door open, yields their car so you can pull out on a busy street or says, "You look pretty today!" These simple actions turn a negative moment into a positive one.

One of my favorite quotes, by the author Henry James, says much about kindness: "Three things in human life are important: One is to be kind, the second is to be kind and the third is to be kind."

When we are shown kindness, we feel like we belong, that we are connected and that we matter.

Look around you this week and recognize friends, family members and neighbors who transform the world by their acts of thoughtfulness, compassion and care. Celebrate the purposeful actions you take as you expand meaningful participation in your homes, schools, communities, towns, states, countries and the world. Your positive, kind, creative responses to social issues matter and can change the world for the better.

There is great power in living consciously, with the goal of celebrating and helping one another. The smallest of efforts can yield positive results.

Read about five inspiring stories of real-life kindness 
Explore five stories of kindness.
"I learned long ago, that those who are the happiest are those who do the most for others."
— Booker T. Washington

Story 1: Community companionship
I recently read about a wonderful woman who lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. Having been homebound while battling lymphoma, she felt lonely and in need of someone to talk with. She reasoned that there must also be other people who are alone and stuck inside without companionship, so she called the county aging services and asked them to help her reach out to other seniors who might want to chat on the phone, have someone check up on them or simply just get a call to say hello. Shortly after her inquiry, they gave her the name and number of a woman who needed just that. What began as a single call and a lone volunteer has now grown into a program with 350 volunteer callers and even more people at the other end of the line.

Story 2: The Blanket Project
Following the devastation of hurricane Katrina—one of the worst natural disasters in our country's history—a group of people in San Francisco began something called The Blanket Project. Their mission is very simple: to let those directly affected know that we Americans across the country care and are concerned about them. The Blanket Project reminds us that the making of blankets and quilts is a time-honored tradition in which love and care are stitched into an object that gives warmth, comfort and shelter. The Blanket Project envisions every survivor of Katrina enveloped in blankets sewn with wishes, prayers, love and the support of the American people. This grassroots effort invites each of us to make a quilt or blanket to cover someone in kindness and care. Hundreds of blankets have been made and shipped to the Gulf Coast, and thousands more are still being made. Children are making them in schools, women are making them at book clubs and families are making them at home. Anyone can make a blanket—even you.

Story 3: A treasured memento
I heard of a woman whose friend lost everything in the storm. Though she, thankfully, saved her family, everything else—her house, job and lifestyle—had vanished. Wanting to help her, a friend went through all her own photographs, finding many pictures of the woman and her family that had been taken over the years. She gathered them in a book, a treasured memento to share. Her gift is an act of kindness that will help to soothe an aching heart.

Story 4: Project Linus
Covering someone in love is prevalent all over our country. There is a national program called Project Linus, through which women lovingly craft handmade mittens, blankets, hats, gloves and scarves that are then donated to local hospitals and schools to be given to children in need. These ladies and this group provide love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children of all ages who are very ill or otherwise in need of a "heart-made" gift lovingly created by a volunteer "Blanketeer."

Story 5: Human-chain beach rescue
A story of the power we possess when people work together in kindness recently brought me to tears. As I watched the CBS Evening News, I saw footage of a human chain made up of 30 people who were rescuing five beachgoers from a riptide in Bloomington Point Beach, Prince Edward Island. The five swimmers had been enjoying the afternoon in the water when suddenly a tide yanked their footing out from under them and pulled them without warning into deep water. The swimmers were in danger of drowning, when bystanders linked their arms, formed a long line and, after nearly an hour, managed to pull every one of them to safety. Strangers and friends pulled together, connected arm by arm, and found the strength among themselves to rescue these people in need. Without this human chain, the chain of events probably would have had a very different outcome.

Imagine a world where this loving, thoughtful, kind, intuitive, innovative and powerful force was used to solve all of our problems.

Get some ideas for how you can make a difference through kindness
"Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you'll find one at the end of your arm. As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands. One for helping yourself, the other for helping others."
— Audrey Hepburn

We all have the power to make a difference in the lives of others. Through our intentions and actions, we choose to bring positive experiences into our lives and those of others.

We can all do something. Do what you can. Do what looks like it needs doing. Do it your own way. Do it because you want to. Do something because you know you can.

Each day this week, decide to extend a gesture of kindness to someone in your life. Think about this as an opportunity to be kind to all the people who touch your life in some way or another: your family, friends, coworkers, bus driver, mail person, delivery person, neighbor and even the lady at the checkout counter at the grocery store. Your act of kindness doesn't have to be a big something—it can be small, but it will have a huge impact.

Here are some ideas to get you started:
  • Bake your favorite cookies and give them out.
  • Pick a few flowers and leave them on the windshield of your neighbor's car.
  • Email a friend with some photos you took.
  • Call your mother.
  • Smile and say thank you at a check-out counter.
  • Help a young mom manage with small kids in the grocery store.
  • Be polite to solicitors on the phone.
  • Share the bounty of your garden.
  • Send a thank-you note.
  • Water a friend's garden while he or she is away.
  • Offer to help someone.
Have the kind of week where kindness flourishes.

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