When was the last time you played and had a good laugh in the mix? In the previous articles, we were all encouraged to never stop playing. The benefits can be life-altering and transform the way you see your life and those around you. Not only does it boost your immune system, build stronger relationships, but also brings on laughter and joy that surprises you. Laughter shares all the benefits of play and simply brightens our lives.
Susan Brink’s National Geographic’s article, Is Laughter the Best Medicine? (June 7, 2014), offers us some laughter reflections for November’s lifeskill, Reflections. Quoted from a 2005 study by Michael Miller, director of the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, “A good belly laugh leads to the release of endorphins from the brain . . . The best laugh is one that brings tears to our eyes. . .”
Miller, author of Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, prescribed at least 30 minutes of exercise at least three times a week and 15 minutes of daily laughter. In one of Miller’s studies, he measured the blood flow of 20 volunteers before and after watching a funny movie and a sad movie. After the sad movie, blood flow was more restricted in 14 of the 20 viewers. After a sad movie that made them laugh, average blood flow increased by 22 percent. And it seems that having a hearty laugh out loud gives us a better chuckle outcome.
LAUGHING IS SERIOUS RESEARCH!
In the first decade of the 21st century there seemed to be little evidence-based research on the effects of laughter. Those who did research on laughter, such as Mary Bennett, director of the Western Kentucky University School of Nursing, still considered laughter “. . . a useful adjunct of real medicine. If you’re going through something like chemotherapy, anything you can do to help you stay sane through something that nasty will help.”
Yet, a decade later, Miller and others broadened the research. The results became clearer. The Mayo Clinic’s Healthy Lifestyle: Stress Management article, Stress relief from laughter? It’s no joke, gives us some tips on mounting benefits of laughter’s effect on our wellbeing. “A good laugh has great short-term effects. When you start to laugh, it doesn’t just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body.” Laughter can offer these short-term benefits:
- Stimulate many organs. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.
- Activate and relieve your stress response. A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response, and it can increase your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.
- Soothe tension. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.
According to Mayo, the impact of long-term laughter may include:
- Improve your immune system. Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. In contrast, positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.
- Relieve pain. Laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers.
- Increase personal satisfaction. Laughter can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations. It also helps you connect with other people.
- Improve your mood. Many people experience depression, sometimes due to chronic illnesses. Laughter can help lessen your depression and anxiety and may make you feel happier.
If you want to add a bounce to your step and giggle to your gab, Mayo offers these tips:
- Put humor on your horizon. Find a few simple items, such as photos, greeting cards or comic strips, that make you chuckle. Then hang them up at home or in your office. Keep funny movies, books or comedy albums on hand for when you need an added humor boost. Look online at joke websites. Go to a comedy club.
- Laugh and the world laughs with you. Find a way to laugh about your own situations and watch your stress begin to fade away. Even if it feels forced at first, practice laughing. It does your body good.
- Consider trying laughter yoga. In laughter yoga, people practice laughter as a group. Laughter is forced at first, but it can soon turn into spontaneous laughter.
- Share a laugh. Make it a habit to spend time with friends who make you laugh. And then return the favor by sharing funny stories or jokes with those around you.
- Knock, knock. Browse through your local bookstore or library’s selection of joke books and get a few rib ticklers in your repertoire that you can share with friends.
- Know what isn’t funny. Don’t laugh at the expense of others. Some forms of humor aren’t appropriate. Use your best judgment to discern a good joke from a bad, or hurtful, one.
Wherever your funny bone tickles your fancy, check out these links for more laughing possibilities.