Laughter is Medicine

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Laughter is the outward physical expression of humor, joy and delight. And, it’s more than that. There is a strong correlation between laughter and happiness and health.

In the 1300s Henri de Mondeville, professor of surgery, encouraged post operative therapy that consisted of laughter producing humor. And Norman Cousins, a professor and journalist, developed his own mood elevating treatment based on daily laughter. Ten minutes of laughter a day, he claimed, resulted in two hours of pain free sleep.

Laughter is medicine. Experiencing giggles, chuckles and belly laughs heals the body and promotes overall health in amazing ways.

Laughter is Medicine title meme

What Happens in the Body When You Laugh

All kinds of things make us laugh. A funny movie, a silly joke, our pet’s crazy antics or a child’s cute mispronounciation of a word gives us the giggles. Sometimes we laugh from nervousness, relief or even fear. Whatever the cause, during a bout of laughter the human body experiences changes.

A wave of electrical energy sweeps through the cerebral cortex. One side of the brain processes language or sights while the other side tries to make sense of what caused the laughter. We may reach a heightened emotional state that can produce tears. And we get a boost of happiness from the release of endorphins in the brain.

Fifteen muscles in the face contract during laughter. Just hearing someone laugh makes our facial muscles begin to contract, creating a contagious response.

Extended laughter makes the muscles relax and even weaken. The respiratory system responds by half closing off the larynx, resulting in gasps for air, a red face and sometimes that pig snorting sound! Extreme laughter can even cause fainting, as one of my sisters discovered.

Contracting muscles in the abdomen can even make you pee yourself as you laugh.

Laughter is Medicine inside joke
Laughter is Medicine – Greg and I got the giggles at a museum while trying to take a selfie

The Benefits of Laughter

Laughter truly is the best medicine, playing a major role in creating better health. (Read about six other simple health practices with big results HERE.)

Check out these amazing health boosters that laughter provides.

Strengthens the Immune System

Laughter, along with getting plenty of rest and vitamin D producing sunshine, strengthens the immune system. People who laugh often reduce stress related hormones in the body while increasing the number of T cells and natural killer cells, two things that help the body stay strong and healthy.

Gives the Body a Mini Workout

There’s a reason your abs feel sore after a good laugh. Laughter increases heart and respiration rates while causing muscles in the abdomen to contract. These mini workouts caused by laughter are similar to a short burst of aerobic exercise. Additionally, laughing for 10 to 15 minutes burns up to 40 calories during those big belly laughs.

Laughter is Medicine belly laugh
Laughter is Medicine – belly laughs are actually good for the belly

Reduces Stress and Anxiety

The giggles instantly lowers the body’s stress response and releases tension held in the muscles. Plus it plays a significant role in decreasing anxiety due to the release of the feel good hormones, endorphins. Laughter also helps you deal with challenging circumstances such as illnesses, embarrassing situations and life struggles.

Clears the Mind and Improves Focus

We are all familiar with brain fog. Laughter changes the chemistry in the brain, helping you think more clearly. And laughing engages the brain in a way that instantly sharpens focus, boosting productivity. Experiencing a mid afternoon slump? Watch a few minutes of a funny video like this one on YouTube.

Laughter is Medicine funny movie
Laughter is Medicine – watch a funny movie to boost productivity

Increases Blood Flow

Laughter increases blood flow…to the heart, improving cardiovascular health…and throughout the body. Stress narrows the blood vessels, reducing blood flow. Laughing expands them, increasing the flow of oxygen rich blood to vital organs and the extremities. Doctors discovered that leg ulcers healed faster when the patients laughed, due to increased blood flow that lowered inflammation.

Boosts Creativity

Laughter loosens up the mind, creating a relaxed state that makes you feel emotionally secure. That state of relaxation enables creative ideas to surface and flourish. Plus problem solving abilities increase after a good laugh.

Laughter is Medicine giggle laugh
Laughter is Medicine – creativity and problem solving increase

Better Quality of Life for Older Adults

Laughter improves the quality of life for older adults by increasing blood vessel function, relieving stress and anxiety and boosting happiness. Additionally, frequent bouts of laughter improves memory and reduces blood pressure and high cholesterol by increasing oxygen through blood circulation. Laughing increases endorphins and dopamine while reducing stress chemicals in the body. And it helps senior with bronchitis and asthma by exercising the diaphragm and abdominal muscles.

Improves Relationships

Ask people what’s important to them, in their relationship with another, and many answer “a good sense of humor”. Laughter improves personal relationships, so much so that some experts believe that all other health benefits flow from the improved social support that laughter brings. Laughing together forms bonds, deepens connections, emotionally attunes people to one another and crosses language barriers. Laughter can diffuse a tense situation and lighten moods.

Laughter is Medicine birthday laugh
Laughter is Medicine – better quality of life for seniors

Bring More Laughter into Your Life

So how can you laugh more? Try these ideas.

  • smile more, signaling your brain and other people that you are ready to laugh
  • inject humor into conversations by asking if anything funny happened recently
  • tell funny stories and listen to giggle inducing tales from others
  • tell jokes and ask for one in return
  • read funny stories or crack open a joke book
  • watch humorous films and comedy series
  • laugh at yourself, often
  • watch funny videos on YouTube
  • attend a comedy club
  • watch comedians online or on tv
  • try out a laughing yoga class
  • spend time with kids…they are often hilarious
  • play with your pets and allow them to entertain you

Laughter does the heart and body good. It lightens mood, lifts the spirits and because it is contagious, it spreads easily to others, benefiting them too.

My grandchildren make me laugh. Funny movies and happy surprises do too. And sometimes I crack myself up when I’m feeling particularly witty.

What makes you laugh?

Laughter is Medicine laughing in Italy
Laughter is Medicine – my grandson Dayan and I cracking up in Italy

 

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I am not a medical practitioner. I study health and wellness related topics and share

9 thoughts on “Laughter is Medicine”

  1. When I was younger I read about this in Readers Digest, but this is a wonderful post of the science and reasons for why.. thanks for sharing this, I hadn’t thought about it for years, time to watch some funny shows!

  2. I’m sure laughter helps people live longer and happier lives. That’s not a health benefit most people think too much about. I know I need to laugh more.

  3. Great post! I often teach a class called “Laugh Out Loud!” and we actually practice laughing. Its such a simple thing, but offer so many benefits.

  4. This is so true! One of my favorite songs and scenes from Mary Poppins is “I love to laugh” where they giggle themselves up to the ceiling. 🙂

  5. I didn’t realize how much laughing affected the abs until I had a c section and we were watching Impractical Jokers. The pain was real! 😂

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