LOL – The Healing Power of Laughter
“Laughter is the best medicine”.
You’ve heard that line before but how often do you practice it? Humour is so infectious. Be around children and you will feel the difference. Their laughter will erase away whatever that is bothering you in an instant. Within seconds you too want to be in their world of make-believe, fun, and laughter. It is said that the sound of roaring laughter is far more contagious than any cough, sniffle, or sneeze.
When laughter is shared, it binds people together and increases happiness and intimacy. In addition to the domino effect of joy and amusement, laughter also triggers healthy physical changes in the body. Let’s look at why you should laugh more often.
What Happens When We Laugh?
- We physiologically change when we laugh. We stretch muscles throughout our face and body, our pulse and blood pressure go up, and we breathe faster, sending more oxygen to our tissues.
- A recent study by the University of Maryland Medical Centre found that people with heart disease were 40% less likely to laugh in a variety of situations compared to people of about the same age with no heart disease.
- The study also found that watching a funny movie boosts the flow of blood to the heart in the same way aerobic exercise does!
- Laughter reduces the level of stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline), dopamine and growth hormone. It also increases the level of health-enhancing hormones like endorphins, and neurotransmitters.
- Laughter increases the number of antibody-producing cells and enhances the effectiveness of T-cells. All this leads to a stronger immune system, as well as fewer physical effects of stress.
- A good laugh massages the abdominal organs, strengthens the muscles that hold them in place, and tones the intestinal functioning. It also benefits digestion and absorption of food.
- The effects of laughter and exercise are very similar and it can be like a mild workout – and may offer some of the same advantages as a workout. It is estimated that several minutes of laughter can burn calories equivalent to as many minutes on a cross trainer or exercise bike!
- Laughing can reduce heart disease and diabetes. It is especially important to the elderly who may find it hard to perform more physical activities.
- Laughter has the ability to dull pain. Numerous studies of people in pain or discomfort have found that when they laugh they report that their pain doesn’t bother them as much.
- Laughter brings the focus away from anger, guilt, stress and negative emotions in a more beneficial way than other mere distractions.
- Studies show that our response to stressful events can be altered by whether we view something as a ‘threat’ or a ‘challenge’. Humour can give us a more lighthearted perspective and help us view events as ‘challenges’, thereby making them less threatening and more positive.
Anytime Is A Good Time for Laughter
Now that you know the health benefits of laughter, try these strategies to find ways to get more of it in your life.
See humour in life:
Don’t just complain about your frustrations – try to laugh about them. Surely, there are so many situations, that were once serious, frustrating, depressing that can now be turned into something silly that you can laugh about with friends.
Laughter connects us with others. One research shows that we’re thirty times more likely to laugh when we’re with other people than when we’re alone. People who laugh a lot may just have a strong connection to the people around them. By elevating the mood of those around you, you can reduce their stress levels too.
Watch comedies and sitcoms:
There’s no shortage of laughter opportunities from entertainment. Watching truly hilarious movies and shows is an easy way to get laughter into your life whenever you need it. Play a funny CD on your way to work to set right your morning moods!
Just fake it:
Our subconscious mind is unable to differentiate between real and fake. The physical benefits are exactly the same between ‘fake’ laughter and real laughter, and the best part is the former usually leads to the latter. So try fake laughter often, and you’ll still achieve positive effects.
Nothing like making fun of fear to reduce a stressful situation. Make fun of what you actually fear. See the comic side in your fearful thoughts, exaggerate them and make them ridiculous.
Read the comics every day:
Post your funniest ones on the bulletin board, the refrigerator or anywhere else you can see them frequently and have a laugh.
Laughing therapy or Laughing Yoga classes are springing up due to the health benefits of laughter. So join one today and you will soon get cracking up for no reason at all, except for better health benefits.
Play with children:
Just watch children. They are the experts when come to laughter. Have a roll on the floor with your kids or your dog. Try a pillow fight for a change. Be a part of children’s fantasy, games and plays.
Best of all, you can get all the laughter benefits for free, with no negative side effects – other than it being contagious and incurable.
So the best prescription for a long, happy, healthy life is to eat for great health, include plenty of regular physical activity in your daily routine, and make sure you have a few good laughs every day.
See it this way: People who laugh more are less likely to be sick. That might be because people who are healthy have more to laugh about.