As children, we laugh hundreds of times a day, but as adults, life can be hard work, bill paying, taxes, and laundry. In the midst of figuring out what is for supper and keeping the grass trimmed, it might be harder to find reasons to laugh but by seeking out humor you can improve your physical and mental health and even add years to your life. Best of all, this priceless medicine is free, easy to use, and the side effects are welcomed.
Studies suggest that laughter releases endorphins in the brain, chemicals that activate the same receptors as painkillers. They have gone on to find that viewing or participating in comedy can lead to higher pain tolerance. The people who laugh more feel less pain later. Laughing along with other people is also better at relieving pain than laughing alone. Who knew all the class clowns and office comedians are providing such a service to us?
Research shows that hostility, anger, depression, and anxiety all lead to higher rates of heart disease. The reverse is true as well. Laughter can decrease stress hormones, reduce artery inflammation and increase HDL, the “good” cholesterol, says the American Heart Association (AHA). Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems. You will enjoy the benefits of your last “laughing fit” for 24 hours. So, laugh daily like your heart depends on it.
Turns out a hearty laugh also burns calories. There is an increase in energy expenditure and heart rate above resting values which results in exercise for the body. It’s no replacement for going to the gym, but one study found that laughing for 10 to 15 minutes a day can burn approximately 40 calories—which could be enough to lose three or four pounds over the course of a year. Maybe we should head to the gym with our funniest friend?
When we laugh, not only does our body release endorphins, “happiness hormones,” we also release dopamine and serotonin, the neurotransmitters that oversee our motivation and balance our mood. All these substances fight several mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. The more intense the laughter is, the more it helps us keep a positive outlook on life by combatting hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine, the “fight or flight” hormones released as a response to stress. Laughing really is good therapy.
When life gives you the choice to laugh or cry, always choose to laugh. Laugh at yourself. Laugh at all the jokes, even your own. Laugh until your belly hurts and then laugh a bit more. Don’t go a day without laughing. A good laugh heals a lot of hurts. If by chance, the studies are wrong and it does not add years to your life, one thing is for sure it will add LIFE to your years.
Recently our second oldest had to have her wisdom teeth removed. Of course, she wanted a video. She’s never had to take medicine and let’s just say she definitely can’t “hold her liquor”. We have laughed so hard WITH her (not at her)! Maybe you’ll get some laughs with us too?