They say laughter is the best medicine.

laughter and heart health

What’s the relationship between humor and health? Read on to find out more.

O glorius laughter: Thou man-loving spirit, that for a time doth take the burden from the weary back.
Douglas Jerrold (my great, great, great grandfather)

Are you getting enough?

Laughing time, that is.

It’s said that kids laugh about 300 times a day but the typical adult laughs only 10 to 12 times a day.

When was the last time you laughed so hard and long that you had tears streaming down your face? When you just couldn’t stop! When it was so infectious that others couldn’t help but join you?

Health Benefits of Laughter

Laughter is is healthy, and it’s infectious. When you hear others, it generally makes you start laughing too.

A commonly held belief is that joyous laughing and good humor can result in positive physical, psychological, and social benefits. I came across a related saying that says it all for me: “He who laughs, lasts”.

A really good laugh increases your pulse and heart rate, supplies you with extra oxygen and ventilates your lungs, stimulates blood circulation, and helps ease muscle tension. It is said to provide the benefits of a light workout, stretching muscles throughout our face and body (I’ve laughed until my tummy muscles hurt, and my face felt like my smile was permanently plastered on!)

When you have a good laugh, a large mass of muscle tissue in your body is involved, producing a response that provides some bodily conditioning exercise. Dr. William Fry, who dedicated many years to the study of laughter, described it as a total body experience in which all the major systems of the body (muscles, nerves, heart, brain, and digestive system) participate fully.

The positive effects of laughter have been found to enhance the immune system. Bringing humor into your life as a coping style may have long term immune system benefits.

Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.
Victor Borg

Laughing at Pain

Believe it or not, it can help dull pain. Numerous studies of people in pain or discomfort have found that their pain doesn’t bother them as much when they are laughing. Many people have heard of Norman Cousins’ groundbreaking accounts of the therapeutic effects of laughing during his treatment and recovery from ankylosing spondylitis.

His struggle with this illness is detailed in the book Anatomy of an Illness. Told he had little chance of surviving, Cousins developed a recovery program incorporating Vitamin C, a positive attitude, love, faith, hope, and finally, laughter induced by Marx Brothers films. He discovered that 10 minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give him at least two hours of pain-free sleep. Subsequently, Cousins formed a humor research task force to pursue studies of the connection between laughing and pain relief.

As a result, research has been conducted in order to examine the physiological changes and ramifications that result from mirthful guffaws.

And here’s an added bonus. It burns calories, too. Okay, it’s minimal – 10 to 15 minutes of laughing burns 50 calories so you’d have to do an awful lot of giggling to lose any weight!

Healing with Humor

The movie Patch Adams, starring Robin Williams, profiled the work of Hunter D. Adams. He runs a medical center in Arlington, Virginia where he applies his unique philosophy that humor, joy, and creativity are an integral part of the healing process. His goal is to bring love, compassion, and laughter to his patients.

Some hospitals now have humor rooms, comedy carts, or comedy video channels in recognition of humor as a healing tool.

In 1973, Austrian scientist Irenaus Eibl-Eibesfeldt demonstrated that babies born deaf and blind start laughing when they’re a few months old. This seemed to prove laughter was innate, not learned, so it may be more fundamental and universal than previously thought. Hugging, singing, smiling, and dancing, the fundamentals of human joy, bolstered by hard science, may be powerful, no-cost therapies in themselves.

Dr. Charmaine Griffiths, spokesperson for the British Heart Foundation, stated: “Scientists are increasingly interested in the possibility that positive emotions can be good for your health.”

The research into humor and healing is still not conclusive, but there is no doubt it won’t hurt you, it will make your life more fun… and it just might help your heart too!

RX for laughter

Here are some things you can do that might induce that all important response… a good belly laugh! Think of laughter as medicine.

  • Watch comedy movies or TV shows or the comedy channel
  • Watch cartoons
  • Read a humorous book
  • Read or tell jokes
  • Listen to humorous radio shows or CDs
  • Play with children – they’ll make you chuckle!
  • Watch funny videos on You Tube (I like the funny animal videos and the funny children videos. I watch these with my grandchildren and we all howl with mirthful glee!)
  • Go to a live comedy review or play
  • Go for a drink and some lighthearted conversation with good friends.
  • Re-live humorous experiences.
  • Get someone to tickle you! Literally or figuratively.
  • Look for opportunities to be just plain silly! It’s fun! And it makes you and others laugh!

The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.
E.E. Cummings


One Response to “They say laughter is the best medicine.”

  1. bellylaughday Says:

    January 24 is Global Belly Laugh Day. The celebration of the great gift of laughter is playful, easy and fun. On January 24 at 1:24 p.m. (local time) smile, throw your arms in the air and laugh out loud. Join the Belly Laugh Bounce Around the World.
    Looking forward to catching your laugh from Australia.
    Elaine Helle

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