Thursday, September 15, 2011

Laughter, why we need it in our life

Everyone knows that laughter makes you feel good, but few are familiar with the large number of other things in your life that it helps. We know that a good laugh puts us in a good mood and eases any problems we may have, but it does much more than this. It has even been shown to be helpful in curing several diseases.
Laughter isn't usually thought of as something that is healthy, or something that improves your health, but as we will see in this article, it is. And as an added bonus, it's fun, and it's free. As a result, its importance has begun to be realized more and more in recent years. There is now a yoga laughter movement that combines laughter with yoga, and it has many followers. Furthermore, there are many different laughter groups, and finally, there's even a day that is now devoted to laughter; "Laughter day" is the first Sunday of May, and it's celebrated around the world.
What are some of the benefits of laughter? A list of several is as follows:
1. Reduces Pain
The well-known author, Norman Cousins, suffered so much pain from inflammatory arthritis that he found it difficult to sleep. He finally decided to use laughter to see if it would help, and in his book "Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient," he describes how he used old Marx brothers movies to overcome his pain. Laughter therapy is, in fact, now used extensively. A study in 1996 showed that patients who underwent surgery required fewer pain pills if they watched funny movies. Indeed, several studies have now shown that it significantly improves the quality of life for people in pain.
2. Reduces Stress
Our life is full of stress, most of which comes from the fast pace of today's society, and the pressure most of us feel as we try to get ahead. Stress comes from work, but it also comes from many other things such as marriage problems, money problems, and illness, and it's important to control it before it leads to anxiety and depression. Numerous studies have shown that stress is reduced when you laugh. In fact, it's virtually impossible to feel tense and depressed when you're laughing.
3. Improves Your Heart Health
Your heart is one of the greatest benefactors of laughter, and studies at the University of Seattle and other places have proven that the effects are bountiful. Laughter makes the blood vessels throughout your body function better by relaxing and dilating them. As a result, blood flows through your body much better, and the effect is not short-lived. A good laugh can increase the supply up to 24 hours. Michael Miller, M.D., of the University of Maryland has shown that a good laughter session is as good for your arteries as aerobic exercise (but don't stop aerobic exercises just because you had a laugh today). Dr. Miller also stated that it has been shown to stop or decrease atherosclerosis, and it helps adjust coagulation of the blood and clotting.
4. Reduces Blood Sugar Levels
Japanese researchers have shown that laughter also reduces blood sugar levels, which should be good news for diabetics, and pre-diabetics. It also decreases the time for the glucose in your blood to be used by your cells.
5. Helps the Immune System
Laughter has also been shown to increase immune response. Increased stress is known to be associated with decreased immune system response, which is obviously harmful to your health. Laughter decreases stress, so in turn it increases your immune system response. Laughter can, for example, drop the bloods supply of the stress hormone, cortisol. And chronically elevated cortisol levels have been shown to weaken the immune system. Studies have also shown that laughter raises levels of infection-fighting anti-bodies in your body. So, in general, it improves your resistance to disease.
6. Relaxes the Whole Body
Relaxation is something you can easily feel, so I'm sure you've noticed that your body relaxes after you have had a hearty laugh. Indeed, it relaxes the muscles throughout your body, and the effect can remain for up to 45 minutes after a good laugh.
7. Triggers the Release of "Feel Good" Endorphins
Endorphins play an important role in your body, and since some give you a "high", or at least make you feel good, it's a good idea to release them whenever possible. It's well-known that the "runner's high" is due to the release of endorphins. Certain foods such as chocolate and chile peppers also release them. Acupuncture is also based on the release of endorphins. And they have been shown to be released by laughter. So, again, if you want to feel good, laugh.
8. Asthma and Respiratory Infections
Asthma now effects millions of people in the US and throughout the world. All you have to do is turn on your TV to see it's importance; ads on various drugs for asthma flood the screen day after day. Laughter certainly can't take the place of these drugs, and in fact, it has been shown to trigger asthma attacks, but Japanese researchers have shown that it can also have a long-term positive effect.
9. Improves Emotional and Mental Health
The benefits to emotional and mental health may be one of laughter's greater benefits. It's well-known that laughter binds people together; it strengthens the bonds between them. This is why it strengthens marriages, and is even an "attractant" between the sexes. It helps marriages in that it can, and frequently does, help couples get through the rough spots. Laughter inspires hope, which is something that is needed for good emotional health.
10.Helps Creative Work
Laughter and humor helps job performance of all types, but is particularly helpful for people involved in creative work. It helps creativity in that it helps you to stay focussed and to concentrate.
11. Boosts Energy
If you feel "run down: or tired and listless, try laughing. Numerous studies have shown that it helps.
12. Burns Calories
Studies at Vanderbilt University show that laughter also burns calories (10 to 15 minutes burns 50 calories) but don't try to use it in place of exercise and dieting.
So it's important to get as much laughter and humor in your life as possible. How do you do this? The following are a few of the best ways.
1. Spend Time with People Who are Fun and Delightful to be Around
You're always in better humor when you are around people who are fun to be with. They can be friends, relatives or your children. Laugh with them and enjoy their company. And be on the lookout to make friends with people who have a good sense of humor.
2. Bring Humor into the Conversation
When you're talking to somebody, smile and laugh as much as possible. Tell them something humorous that happened to you, and soon you'll find that they will do the same thing in return.
3. Laugh at Yourself
Don't worry about making a fool of yourself when you tell people about humorous things that happened to you. Lighten up and enjoy the moment. Also, laugh at funny situations. When you find yourself in a situation that may not seem funny at the time, wait for a while -- it may seem funny later.
It's important, however, not to laugh at people, laugh with them, and don't poke fun at people you both know. Poking fun at anyone is a good way to lose friends.
4. Smile a Lot
A smile soon leads to a chuckle, and a chuckle to a hearty laugh. So smile a lot. Think about the humorous things that have happened to you that day.
5. Use Humor to Repair Problems in Relationships
Disagreements, arguments, and resentments happen to everyone and frequently lead to broken relationships, hard feelings and so on. Use humor to repair them. In the middle of an argument, or when you see one coming on, say something humorous, it will quickly break the tension.
And if you just want a good laugh, look to places where you're likely to find it. In fact, try to incorporate as much humor into your life as possible using them. Some of the best places for finding humor are:
  • Movies
  • Television: Comical sitcoms
  • Funny Books: Both novels and nonfiction books
  • Reading and telling jokes
  • Comedy clubs
  • Animals and children
Barry Parker, Ph. D., is a professor emeritus (physics) at Idaho State University. He is the author of 25 books on science, health, writing, and music. His website is and he has several blogs, one of them is at He has done research in biophysics (mutations in the DNA molecule) and in relativity theory (Einstein's field theory), has a strong interest in health and fitness, self-improvement, and in music (particularly piano). He taught a writing class at ISU for several years. One of his recent books is "Feel Great Feel Alive."

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