For years, Readers Digest featured the column “Laughter, the Best Medicine.” It contains jokes, riddles and humorous musings designed to tickle the funny bone. But just how important is laughter to our everyday health?
Turns out that when we laugh we produce natural killer cells which destroy tumors and viruses. Plus there’s an increase in the production of Gamma-interferon (a disease-fighting protein), T-cells (important for our immune system) and B-cells (which make disease-fighting antibodies). Besides lowering blood pressure, laughter increases oxygen in the blood, which also facilitates healing.
Laughter helps us to deal with stress, cope with loss, work through tragedy, hide our embarrassment and calm our fears. Laughter helps the body relax. It lowers blood pressure, increases immune system functioning and assists in warding off disease.
In terms of mental health, laughter:
- Helps us connect with others
- Improves our coping with grief, fear or loss
- Makes us more productive – happy people have more energy
- Releases negative emotions such as anger, fear, sadness and depression
- Releases endorphins in the brain that help you to feel good
Did you also know that laughter is a form of aerobic exercise? You may even feel fatigued if you laugh continuously for any length of time. Just remind yourself to laugh well and often in order to experience the aerobic benefits of laughter.
Physicians in the 14th century regularly used laughter as an analgesic. Laughter was used by French surgeon Henri de Mondeville to divert patients from the pain of surgery. Plus, it seemed to help them recover.
More recent research has found that those watching comedy videos needed less pain medication. The authors suggest, “These results can best be explained by the action of endorphins released by laughter.”
Dr. Norman Cousins, author of “Norman Cousins Anatomy Of An Illness,” famously used laughter to treat his ankylosing spondylitis. His book describes his regime of daily doses of laughter and vitamin C that he used to recover.
What steps can you take to increase the amount of laughter in your life?
- Surround yourself with positive upbeat people who laugh a lot – laughter is contagious!
- Find out what makes you laugh – is it funny movies, watching the comedy channel, reading funny material? Whatever it is – do it more often!
- Don’t take yourself, or anyone else, or even life for that matter, so seriously.
Always remember, happiness is your birthright…so laugh and when you do, laugh loud and often!