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March 25, 2015

Good Health Is a Laughing Matter

Good Health Is A Laughing Matter

Have you ever noticed how relaxed you become after a hearty laugh? There’s a reason for that! A strong laugh is like giving your body an internal massage. It stimulates the organs and opens up blood vessels, allowing blood to flow more freely throughout the body.

According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter may have many short and long-term benefits:

  • It reduces stress. Laughter reduces stress by stimulating blood flow and relaxing the muscles. According to Jay Winner, MD, director of the Stress Management Program for the Sansum Clinic in Santa Barbara, “[Stress] can exacerbate just about any health condition you can think of.” Laughing reduces stress, providing an immediate relief to many health issues.
  • It strengthens the immune system. Stress slows the immune system’s response to attacks. Therefore, laughing – which reduces stress – improves the immune system. Additionally, several studies have demonstrated that laughing may stimulate the production of immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies.
  • It improves your mood. Laughter reduces the level of “stress hormones” (cortisol, epinephrine, adrenaline) in the body, while stimulating “feel good” hormones like endorphins. Studies have shown that even a “fake” laughing can elevate your mood.

In addition to the benefits listed above, laughter is good for the heart. By increasing the flow of blood to the heart, blood pressure drops. High blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease. Additionally, studies at the University of Maryland showed that people with heart disease were 40 percent less likely to laugh in a variety of situations (such as showing up at a party to discover someone is dressed exactly like you). A follow-up study showed that blood flow increased when watching a comedic movie (There’s Something About Mary) versus a stress-inducing film (Saving Private Ryan). The increase in blood flow after watching a comedy was equivalent to light exercise. Michael Miller, a cardiologist who led the study, said, “The recommendation for a healthy heart may one day be exercise, eat right and laugh a few times a day.”

Laughing is also good for the brain. A study at Johns Hopkins University Medical School showed that adding humor during classroom instruction led to higher test scores. In a study at Loma Linda University, test subjects who watched a funny video for 20 minutes scored better on short-term memory tests than the control group that sat quietly for 20 minutes. According to the researchers, the less stress you have, the better your memory.

Finally, laughing may extend your life. In a study of 53,000 seniors done by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, researchers discovered that study participants who had a sense of humor had a 20 percent lower mortality rate compared to those who had difficulty in finding the humor in life. As this and other studies show, laughter is an essential part of aging well.

So, now that you know that laughter is good for you, how do you go about laughing more? Here’s some tips to being more laughter into your life:

  • Make it a priority. Just like any health routine – like exercising or brushing your teeth – put laughing on your to-do list. You’ll most likely discover it’s a routine you enjoy.
  • Socialize. It’s easier to laugh when you’re in a group of people. So call up some friends who lift your spirits and go to a comedy club.
  • Watch a funny movie or TV show. With all the options available today – Hulu, Netflix, On Demand – there’s always something funny at your fingertips.
  • Watch a funny video. Short on time? Type “funny videos” into your favorite search engine and choose from the plethora of options available.
  • Play with your pet. Animals allow us to “be in the moment” and their willingness to engage in playful activity is a good source of joyfulness.
  • Take a Laughter Yoga class. Have you tried out the hottest new fitness craze? Laughter yoga classes are popping up all over the country. Find a class near you at laughteryoga.org.

If all else fails, just start laughing. As we mentioned, even if laughter is forced, it provides the same benefits. You may discover that’s enough to start the real thing.

Reprinted with permission. Copyright 2015, IlluminAge.   



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