Laughter Just May Be the Best Medicine

Posted on December 20, 2011

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Laughter.  It’s universal.  It’s a language all its own.  And after a good laugh, you always feel better.  You often hear “laughter is the best medicine”.  In the movie Patch Adams, a doctor uses laughter to make his patients feel better.  But is there really anything to it?  True, it makes you feel good, but have you ever stopped and asked yourself why that is?  It has many profound benefits both psychologically and physiologically.

  • Laughter reduces pain.  As you laugh, the pituitary gland secrets endorphins, the body’s natural pain and stress fighters.  They are distributed throughout the nervous system, reducing pain, causing a sense of euphoria, controlling appetite, and strengthening your immune system.  You’re going to feel less stress and anxiety, and you’re going to feel a sense of well-being because of that release of endorphins.
  • Laughter reduces blood sugar levels.  A study done at the University of Tsukuba, Japan showed that laughter reduced glucose and increased glucose tolerance.  A 2-day experiment was performed on nineteen patients with type 2 diabetes not receiving insulin therapy and five healthy subjects.  On both days, they all ate the same meal.  On the first day, they attended a monotonous 40 minute lecture without humour.  On the second day, they went to a 40 minute comedy show and all had a good laugh.  Two hours after their meals, blood glucose levels were an average of 123 milligrams/decilitre after the lecture and 77 mg/dl after the comedy show.
  • Laughter acts on the inner lining of blood vessels, causing vessels to relax and expand.  This is known as vasodilation and it increases blood flow and improves heart health.  In a study of 20 people at the University of Maryland, researchers found that laughter did as much good for their arteries as aerobic activity.  Another study conducted involved 300 people divided in half.  Half of the people had suffered heart attacks or undergone coronary artery bypass surgery.  The other half had no heart disease.  The two groups were given a questionnaire with a series of multiple-choice answers to find out how much or how little people laughed in certain situations.  Another questionnaire using true or false answers was given to measure anger and hostility of the test subjects.  Dr. Michael Miller stated that the most significant study finding was that “people with heart disease responded less humorously to everyday life situations.”  They generally laughed less, even in positive situations, and they displayed more anger and hostility.
  • Laughter has the ability to instantly change your mood, your emotional state and improve your well being.  Laughter is contagious and often better in a group setting than laughing alone.
  • When you laugh, your diaphragm flutters, acting as a pump for your lymphatic system.  This is a good thing because lymph needs to go through your body to collect toxins, then filter them out through the lymph nodes.  Your immune system gets a boost and you’re better equipped to fight off sickness.
  • Your lungs get filled completely, increasing the oxygenation of your body.  Most people don’t breathe properly.  But laughing allows us to reap the benefits of proper breathing.  When you laugh, the blood is now abounding with oxygen, delivering it everywhere for higher function.  You have more energy.  It also prevents many parasites and bacteria from growing and causing infection, since many of them cannot live in an oxygen-rich environment.
  • Laughter has been shown to increase altruistic behaviour.  In a group setting, laughter synchronises the brains of speaker and listeners so they are emotionally attuned.  It provides listeners the ability to be a better audience.  It also strengthens group bonding because when laughing, you simply cannot feel anxious, angry or sad.  It puts everyone in the same positive mood.  And with altruism, the group is inspired to motivate others and do good without wanting reward.
  • Laughter will improve your appearance.  Now we know that everyone’s a lot more attractive when they smile or laugh than when they’re frowning.  Nobody likes a Grumpy Gus.  When we laugh, we exercise our facial muscles, our skin is nourished due to the extra oxygen and blood that is brought to it, our faces become brighter and our cheeks rosy.  In addition, laughing can help you lose weight.  It improves metabolism and burns calories.  Laughing for 15 minutes a day can burn up to 40 calories.  I know: not much.  But all that laughing you’re doing will also increase your energy levels, so you’re more likely to get out and get some sort of exercise.  So overall, you will look better if you have a good sense of humour.
  • Laughter relaxes muscles.  A good laugh relieves physical stress and tension.  While you laugh, the muscles used in laughing tighten up, and the ones that don’t participate in the belly laugh relax.  After you finish laughing, those muscles involved in the laughter start to relax and they can stay relaxed for up to 45 minutes afterward.

So don’t be a sourpuss.  Enjoy life and laugh.  It’ll do you a world of good.   ☺

“I always look for a woman who has a tattoo. I see a woman with a tattoo, and I’m thinking, okay, here’s a gal who’s capable of making a decision she’ll regret in the future.” -Richard Jeni

“I can’t think of anything worse after a night of drinking than waking up next to someone and not being able to remember their name, or how you met, or why they’re dead.” -Laura Kightlinger

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Posted in: Health