Article on Laughter
“When we laugh, natural killer cells which destroy tumours and viruses increase, along with Gamma-interferon (a disease-fighting protein), T-cells (important for our immune system) and B-cells (which make disease-fighting antibodies). As well as lowering blood pressure, laughter increases oxygen in the blood, which also encourages healing.” "Science of Laughter” Discovery Health Website “Without humor one's thought processes are likely to become stuck and narrowly focused leading to increased distress.” Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor “Laughter is very powerful medicine. It can lower stress, dissolve anger and unite families in their resolve to overcome troubled times.” University of Nebraska "Nothing is good or bad. It is thinking that makes it so." Shakespeare “By the time a child reaches nursery school, he or she will laugh about 300 times a day. Adults laugh an average of 17 times a day.” “Science of Laughter” Discovery Health What are the health benefits of humor and laughter? The sound of roaring laughter is far more contagious than any cough, sniffle, or sneeze. Humor and laughter can cause a domino effect of joy and amusement, as well as set off a number of positive physical effects.
A good hearty laugh can help: Health Benefits of Laughter reduce stress lower blood pressure elevate mood boost immune system improve brain functioning protect the heart connect you to others foster instant relaxation make you feel good. "Doctor I have a ringing in my ears." "Don't answer!" – Henny Youngman Laughter activates the chemistry of the will to live and increases our capacity to fight disease. Laughing relaxes the body and reduces problems associated with high blood pressure, strokes, arthritis, and ulcers.
Some research suggests that laughter may also reduce the risk of heart disease. Historically, research has shown that distressing emotions (depression, anger, anxiety, and stress) are all related to heart disease. A study done at the University of Maryland Medical Center suggests that a good sense of humor and the ability to laugh at stressful situations helps mitigate the damaging physical effects of distressing emotions (see References and resources for more details). Some other specifics about laughter’s affect on the body are listed below. Laughter's Effects on the Body Laughter lowers blood pressure. People who laugh heartily on a regular basis have lower standing blood pressure than the average person.
When people have a good laugh, initially the blood pressure increases, but then it decreases to levels below normal. Breathing then becomes deeper which sends oxygen enriched blood and nutrients throughout the body. Humor changes our biochemical state. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases infection fighting antibodies. It increases our attentiveness, heart rate, and pulse. Laughter protects the heart. Laughter, along with an active sense of humor, may help protect you against a heart attack, according to the study at the University of Maryland Medical Center (cited above). The study, which is the first to indicate that laughter may help prevent heart disease, found that people with heart disease were 40 percent less likely to laugh in a variety of situations compared to people of the same age without heart disease. Laughter gives our bodies a good workout. Laughter can be a great workout for your diaphragm, abdominal, respiratory, facial, leg, and back muscles. It massages abdominal organs, tones intestinal functioning, and strengthens the muscles that hold the abdominal organs in place. Not only does laughter give your midsection a workout, it can benefit digestion and absorption functioning as well. It is estimated that hearty laughter can burn calories equivalent to several minutes on the rowing machine or the exercise bike.
Humor improves brain function and relieves stress. Laughter stimulates both sides of the brain to enhance learning. It eases muscle tension and psychological stress, which keeps the brain alert and allows people to retain more information. How does humor improve mental and emotional health? Humor is a powerful emotional medicine that can lower stress, dissolve anger and unite families in troubled times. Mood is elevated by striving to find humor in difficult and frustrating situations. Laughing at ourselves and the situation helps reveal that small things are not the earth-shaking events they sometimes seem to be.
Looking at a problem from a different perspective can make it seem less formidable and provide opportunities for greater objectivity and insight. Humor also helps us avoid loneliness by connecting with others who are attracted to genuine cheerfulness. And the good feeling that we get when we laugh can remain with us as an internal experience even after the laughter subsides. Mental health professionals point out that humor can also teach perspective by helping patients to see reality rather than the distortion that supports their distress. Humor shifts the ways in which we think, and distress is greatly associated with the way we think. It is not situations that generate our stress, it is the meaning we place on the situations. Humor adjusts the meaning of an event so that it is not so overwhelming. Here are some additional things we can do to improve our mood, enjoyment of life and mental health. Attempt to laugh at situations rather than bemoan them – this helps improve our disposition and the disposition of those around us. Use cathartic laughter to release pent-up feelings of anger and frustration in socially acceptable ways. Laugh as a means of reducing tension because laughter is often followed by a state of relaxation.
Lower anxiety by visualizing a humorous situation to replace the view of an anxiety-producing situation. Why do we need humor to stay healthy emotionally? A healthy sense of humor is related to being able to laugh at oneself and one's life. Laughing at oneself can be a way of accepting and respecting oneself. Lack of a sense of humor is directly related to lower self esteem. (Note that laughing at oneself can also be unhealthy if one laughs as a way of self degradation.) Humor is essential to mental health for a variety of reasons: Mental Health Benefits of Laughter Humor enhances our ability to affiliate or connect with others. Humor helps us replace distressing emotions with pleasurable feelings. You cannot feel angry, depressed, anxious, guilty, or resentful and experience humor at the same time.