As Woody Allen stated, “I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose.” I can’t help but agree with Woody on this one. Aside from the unpleasant sensation of milk possibly spewing from one’s nose when sometimes overtaken by an unexpected and spontaneous bout of laughter, laughing is just plain fun and can be contagious. In addition, it has long been thought that laughter is good medicine. Researchers, including Dr. Lee Berk of the Loma Linda School of Public Health in California, maintain that humor and laughter have a positive impact on health. They have discovered that laughter and humor lower one’s stress hormones and strengthen the body’s immune system.
What is Humor?
Having a sense of humor is considered a creative way of being and responding to life situations that brings joy, insight, and a fresh perspective. Humor can provide inspiration, physical and mental release, and harmony with oneself, others and the surrounding world. Humor and laughter are important to maintaining good health.
What is Good Health?
Good health is measured, not only by how long one lives, but also by how one lives his life. Phil Milgrom, a stress management therapist, maintains that some signs of good health include contentment, enthusiasm, peace of mind, connectedness with others, self esteem, and a sense of humor.
How Can Laughter and Humor Make People Healthier?
Morgan Griffin of WebMd explains that some researchers believe that laughter might be one of the best medicines to help people feel better and stay healthier. Researchers, however, aren’t certain if it’s actually the act of laughing alone that makes people feel better. Researchers believe that maintaining a good sense of humor, having a positive attitude, and having the support of family and friends may play an important part as well.
Robert R. Provine is a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and author of Laughter: A Scientific Investigation. Provine admits, “The definitive research into the potential health benefits of laughter just hasn’t been done yet.” Even though researchers don’t know with certainty that laughter helps people feel better, they are of the opinion that it can’t hurt.
The positive impact of physical exercise and laughter are similar. It has long been known that exercise helps to relieve stress, and releases endorphins which are energizing and mood elevating. Cardio-vascular exercise also has positive benefits for the heart. Researchers on the subject of the health benefits of laughter explain that people change physiologically when they laugh. Muscles throughout the face and body are stretched, the pulse rate and blood pressure go up, and breathing becomes faster. Such a process sends more oxygen to body tissue. Combining laughter with body movement, such as waving or gesturing with the arms while laughing, also boosts the heart rate. Laughter can also burn calories.
Researchers studying the effects of laughter on the body discovered important information as to how laughter affects people. Laughter allows the blood vessels to expand and contract easily. This is a health benefit. Increased levels of stress have long been associated with lowered immune system responses. Laughter and humor, therefore, may increase the body’s level of infection-fighting antibodies and also increase the levels of immune cells. Research also shows that laughter helps reduce the levels of blood sugar. This can be especially beneficial for people with diabetes.
Researchers also believe that laughter helps with increased relaxation and better sleep. In addition, they also claim that laughter relieves pain and depression, lowers the blood pressure, improves breathing, and improves one’s social life. So laugh hard and be healthy!
The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a doctor for advice.