Cheerfulness as a Life Power
| CHEERFULNESS |
AS A LIFE POWER
ORISON SWETT MARDEN
Author of "Pushing to the Front," "The Secret of
Achievement," etc.; and Editor of "Success."
THOMAS Y. CROWELL & COMPANY
By Orison Swett Marden
The soul-consuming and friction-wearing tendency of this hurrying,grasping, competing age is the excuse for this booklet. Is it not anabsolute necessity to get rid of all irritants, of everything whichworries and frets, and which brings discord into so many lives?Cheerfulness has a wonderful lubricating power. It lengthens the life ofhuman machinery, as lubricants lengthen the life of inert machinery.Life's delicate bearings should not be carelessly ground away for merelack of oil. What is needed is a habit of cheerfulness, to enjoy everyday as we go along; not to fret and stew all the week, and then expectto make up for it Sunday or on some holiday. It is not a question ofmirth so much as of cheerfulness; not alone that which accompanieslaughter, but serenity,—a calm, sweet soul-contentment and inwardpeace. Are there not multitudes of people who have the "blues," who yetwish well to their neighbors? They would say kind words and make theworld happier—but they "haven't the time." To lead them to look on thesunny side of things, and to take a little time every day to speakpleasant words, is the message of the hour.
In the preparation of these pages, amid the daily demands ofjournalistic work, the author has been assisted by Mr. E. P. Tenney, ofCambridge.
|I.||What Vanderbilt paid for Twelve Laughs||7|
|The Laugh Cure||9|
|A Cheap Medicine||13|
|Why don't you Laugh?||14|
|II.||The Cure for Americanitis||16|
|A Worrying Woman||19|
|Our Hawaiian Paradise||22|
|A Weather Breeder||24|
|"What is an Optimist?||27|
|Living up Thanksgiving Avenue||29|
|III.||Oiling your Business Machinery||31|
|Singing at your Work||33|
|"Le Diable est Mort"||38|
|IV.||Taking your Fun Every Day as you do your Work||42|
|Unworked Joy Mines||44|
|The Queen of the World||45|
|V.||Finding what you do not seek||51|
|John B. Gough||55|
|VI.||"Looking Pleasant"—A Thing to be worked from the Inside||64|
|Worth Five Hundred Dollars||66|
|The "Don't Worry" Society||67|
|A Pleasure Book||69|
CHEERFULNESS AS A LIFE POWER.
William K. Vanderbilt, when he last visited Constantinople, one dayinvited Coquelin the elder, so celebrated for his powers as a mimic, whohappened to be in the city at the time, to give a private recital onboard his yacht, lying in the Bosphorus. Coquelin spoke three of hismonologues. A few days afterwards Coquelin received the followingmemorandum from the millionaire:—
"You have brought tears to our eyes and laughter to our hearts. Sinceall philosophers are agreed that laughing is preferable to weeping, youraccount with me stands thus:—
|"For tears, six times||$600|
|"For laughter, twelve times||2,400|
"Kindly acknowledge receipt of enclosed check."
"I find nonsense singularly refreshing," said Talleyrand. There is goodphilosophy in the saying, "Laugh and grow fat." If everybody knew thepower of laughter as a health tonic and life prolonger the tinge ofsadness which now clouds the American face would largely[Pg 8]disappear, andmany physicians would find their occupation gone.
The power of laughter was given us to serve a wise purpose in oureconomy. It is Nature's device for exercising the internal organs andgiving us pleasure at the same time.
Laughter begins in the lungs and diaphragm, setting the liver, stomach,and other internal organs into a quick, jelly-like vibration, whichgives a pleasant sensation and exercise, almost equal to that ofhorseback riding. During digestion, the movements of the stomach aresimilar to churning. Every time you take a full breath, or when youcachinnate well, the diaphragm descends and gives the stomach an extrasqueeze and shakes it. Frequent laughing sets the stomach to dancing,hurrying up the digestive process. The heart beats faster, and sends theblood bounding through the body. "There is not," says Dr. Green, "oneremotest corner or little inlet of the minute blood-vessels of the humanbody that does not feel some wavelet from the convulsions occasioned bya good hearty laugh." In medical terms, it stimulates the vasomotorcenters, and the spasmodic contraction of the blood-vessels causes theblood to flow quickly. Laughter accelerates the respiration, and giveswarmth and glow to the whole system. It brightens the eye, increases theperspiration, expands the chest, forces the poisoned air from theleast-used lung cells, and tends to restore that exquisite poise orbalance which we call health, which results from the harmonious actionof all the functions of the body. This delicate poise, which may bedestroyed by a sleepless night, a piece of bad news, by grief oranxiety, is often wholly restored by a good hearty laugh.
There is, therefore, sound sense in the caption,—"Cheerfulness[Pg 9] as aLife Power,"—relating as it does to the physical life, as well as themental and moral; and what we may call
is based upon principles recognized as sound by the medicalprofession—so literally true is the Hebrew proverb that "a merry heartdoeth good like a medicine."
"Mirth is God's medicine," said Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes; "everybodyought to bathe in it. Grim care, moroseness, anxiety,—all the rust oflife,—ought to be scoured off by the oil of mirth." Elsewhere he says:"If you are making choice of a physician be sure you get one with acheerful and serene countenance."
Is not a jolly physician of greater service than his pills? Dr. MarshallHall frequently prescribed "cheerfulness" for his patients, saying thatit is better than anything to be obtained at the apothecary's.
In Western New York, Dr. Burdick was known as the "Laughing Doctor." Healways presented the happiest kind of a face; and his good humor wascontagious. He dealt sparingly in drugs, yet was very successful.
The London "Lancet," the most eminent medical journal in the world,gives the following scientific testimony to the value of jovialty:—
"This power of 'good spirits' is a matter of high moment to the sick andweakly. To the former, it may mean the ability to survive; to thelatter, the possibility of outliving, or living in spite of, a disease.It is, therefore, of the greatest importance to cultivate the highestand most buoyant frame of mind which the conditions will admit. The sameenergy which takes the form of mental activity is vital to the work ofthe organism.[Pg 10] Mental influences affect the system; and a joyous spiritnot only relieves pain, but increases the momentum of life in the body."
Dr. Ray, superintendent of Butler Hospital for the Insane, says in oneof his reports, "A hearty laugh is more desirable for mental health thanany exercise of the reasoning faculties."
Grief, anxiety, and fear are great enemies of human life. A depressed,sour, melancholy soul, a life which has ceased to believe in its ownsacredness, its own power, its own mission, a life which sinks intoquerulous egotism or vegetating aimlessness, has become crippled anduseless. We should fight against every influence which tends to depressthe mind, as we would against a temptation to crime. It is undoubtedlytrue that, as a rule, the mind has power to lengthen the period ofyouthful and mature strength and beauty, preserving and renewingphysical life by a stalwart mental health.
I read the other day of a man in a neighboring city who was given up todie; his relatives were sent for, and they watched at his bedside. Butan old acquaintance, who called to see him, assured him smilingly thathe was all right and would soon be well. He talked in such a strain thatthe sick man was forced to laugh; and the effort so roused his systemthat he rallied, and he was soon well again.
Was it not Shakespere who said that a light heart lives long?
The San Francisco "Argonaut" says that a woman in Milpites, a victim ofalmost crushing sorrow, despondency, indigestion, insomnia, and kindredills, determined to throw off the gloom which was making life so heavy aburden to her, and established a rule that she would[Pg 11] laugh at leastthree times a day, whether occasion was presented or not; so she trainedherself to laugh heartily at the least provocation, and would retire toher room and make merry by herself. She was soon in excellent health andbuoyant spirits; her home became a sunny, cheerful abode.
It was said, by one who knew this woman well, and who wrote an accountof the case for a popular magazine, that at first her husband andchildren were amused at her, and while they respected her determinationbecause of the griefs she bore, they did not enter into the spirit ofthe plan. "But after awhile," said this woman to me, with a smile, onlyyesterday, "the funny part of the idea struck my husband, and he beganto laugh every time we spoke of it. And when he came home, he would askme if I had had my 'regular laughs;' and he would laugh when he askedthe question, and again when I answered it. My children, then veryyoung, thought 'mamma's notion very queer,' but they laughed at it justthe same. Gradually, my children told other children, and they toldtheir parents. My husband spoke of it to our friends, and I rarely metone of them but he or she would laugh and ask me, 'How many of yourlaughs have you had to-day?' Naturally, they laughed when they asked,and of course that set me laughing. When I formed this apparentlystrange habit I was weighed down with sorrow, and my rule simply liftedme out of it. I had suffered the most acute indigestion; for years Ihave not known what it is. Headaches were a daily dread; for over sixyears I have not had a single pain in the head. My home seems differentto me, and I feel a thousand times more interest in its work. My husbandis a changed man. My children are called 'the girls[Pg 12] who are alwayslaughing,' and, altogether, my rule has proved an inspiration which hasworked wonders."
The queen of fashion, however, says that we must never laugh out loud;but since the same tyrannical mistress kills people by corsets, indulgesin cosmetics, and is out all night at dancing parties, and in Chinapinches up the women's feet, I place much less confidence in her viewsupon the laugh cure for human woes. Yet in all civilized countries it isa fundamental principle of refined manners not to be ill-timed andunreasonably noisy and boisterous in mirth. One who is wise will neverviolate the proprieties of well-bred people.
"Yet," says a wholesome writer upon