Hot Flash: Can Laughter Be Healthy?

By Barbara Bishop

 

I love to laugh. It makes me happy, I feel more attractive, it lightens my feelings of stress. I went online to see if there was science or research to back up the way laughter makes me feel.

I ran across a story in HelpGuide, a website that was conceived locally by a Santa Monica couple whose daughter died by suicide. They have devoted their lives to helping people get the help they need in an anonymous way. It’s a great first step to learning more about your healh.

Guess what? I found out that laughter is good for your health! Check this out:

Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.

Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.

Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.

Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

Laughter burns calories. One study found that laughing for 10 to 15 minutes a day can burn about 40 calories – which could be enough to lose three or four pounds over the course of a year. This is good; walking, yoga, laughing, stretching, riding my bike; I will get to my ideal weight in no time!

Laughter may even help you to live longer. A study in Norway found that people with a strong sense of humor outlived those who don’t laugh as much. The difference was particularly notable for those battling cancer.

Laughter stops distressing emotions. You can’t feel anxious, angry, or sad when you’re laughing. Try it – even for a moment. And every moment counts.

Laughter helps you relax and recharge. It reduces stress and increases energy, enabling you to stay focused and accomplish more. We need to take laugh breaks instead of coffee breaks.

Learn to laugh. Babies begin smiling during the first weeks of life and laugh out loud within months of being born. Even if you did not grow up in a household where laughter was a common sound, you can learn to laugh at any stage of life.

Begin by setting aside special times to seek out humor and laughter, as you might with working out, and build from there. Here are some ways to start:

Smile. Smiling is the beginning of laughter. When you look at someone, practice smiling. Instead of looking down at your phone, look up and smile at people you pass in the street, the person serving you a morning coffee, or the co-workers you share an elevator with. Notice the effect this has on others as well.

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’re in a state of sadness, you have further to travel to get to humor and laughter.

I make a mental list every night before I go to bed. Or, when I am in a current state of panic, I shift to being grateful what I have, naming 100 things I’m grateful for. My energy and mindset change immediately.

Spend time with fun, playful people. These are people (aka me) who laugh easily–both at themselves and at life’s absurdities–and who routinely find the humor in everyday events. Their playful point of view and laughter are contagious. Even if you don’t consider yourself a lighthearted, humorous person, you can still seek out people who like to laugh and make others laugh.