Everyone knows the old expression “Laughter is the best medicine,” but is that statement really true? According to the medical community, the answer is yes. While most people think of laughter as simply an everyday response that does not affect one’s health, a simple “ha” throughout the day can really help keep the doctor away.
Laughter and health can be best broken up into three different health benefits: Physical and mental, emotional and social.
Physical and Mental Health Benefits
Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress and pain as it brings one’s mind and body back into balance. Humor lightens your burdens, connects you to others and keeps you grounded, focused and alert.
Laughter relaxes the whole body – A good laugh relieves tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes afterwards.
Laughter boosts the immune system – Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies which subsequently improves one’s resistance to disease.
Laughter triggers the release of endorphins – Endorphins are the body’s natural feel-good chemicals as they promote an overall sense of well-being. When you laugh, endorphins are released.
Laughter protects your heart – Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, helping to protect against heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems. A recent study by cardiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore 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. Dr. Michael Miller, director of the Center for Preventative Cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center and professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, states that “The old saying that ‘laughter is the best medicine,’ definitely appears to be true when it comes to protecting your heart.”
Laughter makes you feel good and allows you to keep a positive, optimistic outlook through difficult situations, disappointments and losses. More than just relief from difficult situations, laughter can help you find new sources of meaning and hope in life. Additionally, laughter is contagious and just hearing a hearty laugh stimulates your brain and readies you to smile and join the fun.
Laughter Dissolves Distressing Emotions – You can’t feel anxious, angry, or sad when you’re laughing.
Laughter Helps your Relax and Recharge – Laughter reduces stress and increases energy, enabling you to stay focused and accomplish more.
Humor Shifts Your Perspective – Laughter allows you to view situations in a more realistic and less threatening light. When you laugh, you look at situations with a different perspective which creates a psychological distance that can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Laughter that is shared with others is one of the most effective tools for keeping relationships fresh and exciting. Humor and playful communication strengthen relationships by triggering positive feelings and fostering emotional connection. Additionally, once we laugh with another person, a positive bond is created that acts as a strong buffer against stress, disagreements and disappointments. Incorporating laughter into your daily activities can overall improve your love relationships and your interactions with coworkers, family and friends.
Be More Spontaneous – Humor gets you out of your head and away from troubles.
Let go of Defensiveness – Laughter helps you forget your judgments, criticisms and doubts.
Release Your Inhibitions – Fears of holding back and holding on are set aside.
Express Your True Feelings – Deeply felt emotions are allowed to rise to the surface.
Additionally, one man, named Norman Cousins, fought a disease with laughter. After being diagnosed with anklyosing spondylitis, a long-term disease that causes inflammation of the joints, Norman Cousins checked himself into a hotel room with Vitamin C and a bunch of Marx Brothers movies to make him laugh. In very little time, Cousins was off of painkillers and sleeping pills and found that laughter relieved his pain and helped him sleep. His therapy inspired him to write a book called “Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient” which made the Journal of the American Medical Association recognize that laughter therapy could help improve the quality of life for patients with chronic illness and that laughter has an immediate symptom relieving effect.
So the next time you’re stressed out, angry or sad, pop in your favorite comedy or sit back and watch a sitcom while all of your tension melts away. Because as they say, a “ha” a day keeps the doctor away.