When was the last time you had a really good laugh?
The scientific definition of laughing is a “successive,
rhythmic, spasmodic expiration with open glottis and
vibration of the vocal cords, often accompanied by
baring of the teeth and facial expression”. That doesn’t
begin to tell the story of what laughing does for us,
however. The bottom line is that laughing is medically
Laughter establishes or restores a positive emotional
climate and a sense of connection between two people. In
fact, some researchers believe that the major function
of laughter is to bring people together – the more
social a person is and the more social support a person
receives, the more likely that laughter will result from
that social connection. Mutual laughter and play are an
essential component of strong, healthy relationships. By
making a conscious effort to incorporate more humor and
play into your daily interactions, you can improve the
quality of your relationships.
What are the Physical Effects of Laughing?
Laughing makes people feel good for a reason. Studies
have shown that laughter boosts the immune system and
triggers the release of pleasure-inducing neurochemicals
in the brain. The immune system, which contains special
cells that are responsible for defending the body
against infection, have been shown to increase during
the act of laughing. In the central nervous system, the
brain releases powerful endorphins as a result of
laughing. Endorphins are natural, morphine-like
compounds that raise the pain threshold, produce
sedation and induce euphoria (commonly called a “natural
high”). In other words, we feel better when we laugh
because endorphins reduce physical and mental pain.
While this may be a wonderful feeling, laughing has
other benefits as well:
During a laugh, respiration, heart rate and blood
pressure temporarily rise. This causes oxygen to surge
through the bloodstream that then results in lower blood
Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and
increases blood flow, which can help protect against a
heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.
Laughter reduces pain and allows toleration of
Laughter reduces blood sugar levels, increasing glucose
tolerance in diabetics and non-diabetics alike.
Laughter relaxes the whole body, relieving tension and
stress. It has been shown that following a good, hearty
laugh, muscles in the body are relaxed for up to 45
Laughing burns calories – laughter is sometimes referred
to as “inner jogging”. A hearty laugh gives the muscles
of the face, chest, shoulders, stomach and diaphragm a
Laughter also helps to create a positive mood. It allows
the expression of happiness and the release of anxiety.
Humor eases tension and is a great antidote to a
stressful situation. Laughter is often seen as a
temporary vacation from everyday problems, bringing us
to a paradise in which worries do not exist. Humor and
laughter are natural safety valves that shut off certain
hormones that are released during stressful situations.
In fact, your sense of humor is one of the most powerful
tools you have to make certain that your daily mood and
emotional state support good health.
Here are some ways to bring more humor and laughter into
Smile: Smiling is the beginning of laughter. Like
laughter, it’s contagious. When you look at someone or
see something even mildly pleasing, practice smiling!
Count your blessings: Literally make a list. The simple
act of considering the good things in your life will
distance you from negative thoughts that are a barrier
to humor and laughter!
When you hear laughter, move toward it: People are very
happy to share something funny because it gives them an
opportunity to laugh again and feel the humor in it.
When individuals hear laughter, they seek it out and ask
Spend time with fun, playful people: These are people
who laugh easily, both at themselves and at life’s
absurdities and who routinely find humor in everyday
events. Their playful point of view and laughter are
Bring humor into conversations: Ask people: What’s the
funniest thing that happened to you today? This week? In
Laugh at yourself: Share your embarrassing moments.
Attempt to laugh at situations rather than bemoan them:
Look for the humor in a bad situation, the irony and
absurdity of life. This will help improve your mood and
the mood of those around you.
Surround yourself with reminders to lighten up: Keep a
toy on your desk or in your car. Put up a funny poster
in your office. Choose a computer screensaver that makes
you laugh. Frame photos of you and your family having
Keep things in perspective: Many things are beyond our
control, so make the best of a situation and find the
positive in the situation.
Deal with stress: Stress is major impediment to humor
Pay attention to children and emulate them: They are the
experts on playing, taking life lightly and laughing!!
Here is a simple prescription for a healthy life:
Thirty minutes of exercise at least 3 times a week, and
15 minutes of laughter on a daily basis!!
The bottom line – laughter may just be the best medicine
on the market today!
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