By Carla Schick
When was the last time you laughed? Not just “ha ha,” but a real “it’s-so-funny-I’m-going-to-cry” laugh? Laughter often contributes to improved health and overall well-being. Linda Ellerbee, an American journalist for NBC News, once said: “I have always felt that laughter in the face of reality is probably the finest sound there is and will last until the day when the game is called on account of darkness. In this world, a good time to laugh is any time you can.”
On my top-10 list of favorite sounds, a baby’s genuine, enthusiastic laugh takes the cake. Their knack for giggling with all they’ve got, no matter how silly or simple the trigger may have been, is infectious. Did you know that a child laughs 400 times a day, compared to an adult who laughs around 15 times a day? Perhaps adults are under the false impression that snickering and laughter are immature and childish; that as we get older, we should need less laughter like we need less sleep.
Well, scientific research proves otherwise.
Here’s a list of some of the benefits of laughter:
What pain?: Laughter prompts the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins, which resemble opiates, react with the brain’s opiate receptors to raise your pain threshold, temporarily relieving pain.
Bring it on: A sense of humor can help you accept the unavoidable, rise to any challenge, handle the unexpected with ease, and come out of any difficulty smiling. So try to look on the bright side. Make lemonade out of those lemons. And, yes, your glass is half full.
Zen: Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh can relieve physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes afterward.
A laugh a day: Laughter boosts activity within your immune system. An energetic chuckle can increase immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease. It also decreases stress hormones that constrict blood vessels and suppress immune activity.
Less pressure: Laughter lowers blood pressure. So go ahead, put a whoopee cushion on your friend’s chair.
Glass half full: Having a funny bone improves your sickness-fighting abilities. Optimistic people have stronger immune systems that enable them to fight off illness, compared to their pessimistic counterparts who generally take longer to recover. Optimistic people simply have a more robust immune system.
Let it burn: Laughter burns calories. Ten to 15 minutes of laughter can burn 50 calories. So imagine how many calories you’ll burn just from watching your favorite funny sitcom or romantic comedy.
Sweet reward: Laughter can help to regulate your blood sugar levels. A cheerful laugh is like a mini-exercise routine, lessening the physical symptoms of irritability, frustration and anxiety. Getting rid of these emotions can bring you to normalcy, thereby reducing blood sugar levels.
Let it flow: Giggling is great for your blood. Laughter increases vascular blood flow and oxygenation of the blood by expanding the blood vessels. So not only is the latest Steve Carrel movie fun to watch, it’s also helping to expand and contract your blood vessels more easily.
Going up?: Laughing lifts your spirits. Two emotions cannot occupy the same space at once, especially if they’re opposite emotions. As a result, when you’re smiling and having a good time, there’s no room for negativity.
So next time your friend tries to be funny, or your child tells a silly joke, just laugh along with them. It’s good for you! After all, laughter is the best medicine.
Having a chronic illness is not funny, but being willing to take lemons and make lemonade can help you feel better, if only for a few minutes. What makes you laugh out loud?
Ready for a belly laugh right now?