Laugh Your Way Healthy

Laugh Your Way Healthy

Just turn on the news and it will wipe that smile right off your face. It’s not easy these days to whip up some good laughter. In fact, if you ask people the last time they really guffawed, not just giggled, but let out a deep, robust bellow of laughter most may not be able to remember. However, if some do remember, their recollection could bring back a stuttering cackle that in turn could make others do the same.

Laughter is important. Science even agrees as various studies concur that that this joyous act can benefit your health.

Your Brain Ignites 

When you laugh, it is as if the brain ignites. A multitude of electrical reactions fire throughout your body creating not only a cerebral response but remarkable physical feedback as well.

NBC News (3/14/13) breaks down the systemic effects of laughter according to a combined study by researchers from the University of Oxford, University of Colorado at Boulder, University of Zurich and Columbus State Community College,

  • Eyes – Your eyes begin to water prompting you to exclaim later that you literally “cried laughing”.
  • Heart – Your heart rapidly pumps blood to replace oxygen exhaled during your laugh.
  • Muscles – Your face muscles open and contract while your abdominals tighten to the point of holding your middle. As the rest of your body becomes weaker this may cause you to hunch over or fall to the floor in joy. Muscle contraction during laughter could even burn some calories.
  • Hormones – Endorphins, natural pain killing opiates often triggered during exercise, also release during laughter. This simple hormone release has been linked to faster recovery as well as significant temporary pain reduction. Hence, “laughter is the best medicine”.
  • Cortisol – This is a stress relieving hormone that when overproduced can actually cause stress, as well as depression, weight gain and fatigue. Laughter releases just the right amount of cortisol to possibly relieve you of  these health challenges.
  • Emotions – Laughter is contagious. Some scientists speculate it evolved as an early bonding mechanism. If they’re right, sharing a laugh with someone could help the two of you connect emotionally.

Memory Recall

As laughter works its magic on your entire body it could be acting like a mechanism which lifts cognitive obstacles.

A study titled, ‘The effect of humor on short-term memory in older adults: a new component for whole-person wellness,’ published in Advances in Mind Body Medicine (Spring 2014) concluded that,

“The study’s findings suggest that humor can have clinical benefits and rehabilitative implications and can be implemented in programs that support whole-person wellness for older adults…medical practitioners now can offer positive, enjoyable, and beneficial humor therapies to improve these deficiencies.”

Laugh Off the Blues

Sometimes, trudging through life can take its toll and depression or sleeplessness or both could weigh you down. This is especially true for many of the elderly, struggling with a changing, slowing body unable to respond as once before.

It turns out that maybe watching a comedy or hearing a great joke can alleviate this.

Researchers from the Department of Family Medicine, Kyungpook National University Hospital, Daegu, Korea conducted a study published in Geriatrics and Gerontology International (7/11) which found that,

“Laughter therapy is considered to be useful, cost-effective and easily-accessible intervention that has positive effects on depression, insomnia, and sleep quality in the elderly.”

Smile at Germs

A good dose of laughter has been linked to boosting your immune system. In a combined research paper published by Western Kentucky University (1/1/03),

“Laughter may reduce stress and improve NK cell activity. As low NK cell activity is linked to decreased disease resistance and increased morbidity in persons with cancer and HIV disease, laughter may be a useful cognitive-behavioral intervention.”

These are just a few examples of the benefits of laughter. Sure, things can look grim at times but if you always leave room for joy you just may be able to laugh your way healthy.