Is laughter really the best medicine?What brings you joy? Is it chocolate, tropical vacations, hugs from children, a card from a friend, or the satisfaction of a job well done?
By: By Crystal Hoepner, Public health, Alexandria Echo Press
What brings you joy? Is it chocolate, tropical vacations, hugs from children, a card from a friend, or the satisfaction of a job well done?
Each of us has our own fulfillments and our own answers to the question. Yet, there is one pleasure that we all have in common, and that is laughter.
You’ve heard the saying, “Laughter makes for the best medicine.” If you’re feeling down or ill, laughing can help you feel better. Research has shown laughing can help you cope better with pain, enhance your immune system, reduce stress and even help you live longer.
Who can argue the feeling of a laughing spell? No matter your age, wealth, race, or living situation, life is good when you laugh.
Some researchers think laughter just might be the best medicine, helping you feel better and putting that spring back in your step. Others aren’t sure if it’s actually the act of laughing that makes people feel better or if it’s a good sense of humor, a positive attitude, and the support from being close with friends and family, and not the laughter itself.
So how does laughter affect the body? We change physiologically when we laugh. We stretch muscles throughout our face and body, our pulse and blood pressure go up, and we breathe faster, sending more oxygen to our tissues.
People who believe in the benefits of laughter say that the effects of laughter and exercise on the body are similar.
Researchers at the University of Maryland studied the effects of laughter on the body, specifically blood vessels, when people were shown either comedies or dramas.
After the screening, the blood vessels of the group who watched the comedy behaved normally, expanding and contracting easily. But the blood vessels in people who watched the drama tended to tense up, restricting blood flow.
Another study from the university looked at 19 people with diabetes and the effects of laughter on blood sugar levels. After eating, the group attended a tedious lecture. On the next day, the group ate the same meal and then watched a comedy. After the comedy, the group had lower blood sugar levels than they did after the lecture.
Not only do we benefit our own health when we laugh, but we’re benefiting the health of people we love and care about. Laughter is also contagious.
A study done in Japan showed that if you look at allergic children, when they listen to their mother laugh, they actually have less of an allergic response. The mother’s laughter actually helps modulate the child’s immune system.
The definite research into the potential health benefits of laughter just hasn’t been done yet. But what we do know is that laughing certainly isn’t hurting.
Adults laugh less than 20 times a day, whereas children laugh more than 300 times a day. So make it a point to bring more laughter into your daily ritual, just like when you were a kid.