Although she may disagree with the frequency (she’s entitled, eh, to be wrong), more often than not Deborah Levine, the founder of The American Diversity Report, and I laugh a lot during our conversations. Hey, given the nature of the kinds of issues we tackle – among them race, religion, harassment), the ability to step back and laugh is an essential survival tool.
So there’s a grain of truth in that old saying, “laughter is the best medicine.” Shucks, a side-splitting guffaw or two is a “day maker” for me. I get amazing energy and creativity boosts right after.
And the funny thing is that when I get others to laugh at stuff I say or write, I get pumped up even more. And more creative to boost.
Now to satisfy my curiosity about a possible link between laughing and health, I decided to do some research on the medical benefits of a good laugh and was surprised by the volume of what’s been written on the subject.
Experts report that laughter is one of our most basic emotional responses and is proven to have a positive effect on physical, emotional and social health and wellbeing. It has a way of healing and renewing our body and mind. But despite the compelling evidence, laughter has yet to be widely recognized as a health and wellness resource, let alone a stimulus for creativity.
Here’s a list of the benefits of laughter say the experts. Laughter is proven to:
- Improve the body’s natural defense mechanism by increasing the amount of immunoglobulin’s and T cells in the body.
- Reduce the risk of heart disease. Laughing expands the inner walls of the arteries which increases the ability of blood to flow around the body, and this positive effect lasts for up to 45 minutes after the laughter has stopped.
- Decrease stress. Laughing instantly reduces the levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and dopamine, and increases the production of serotonin and endorphins which reduce stress.
- Boost the production of serotonin, a natural anti-depressant.
- Function as a natural painkiller. Studies show that watching comedy films assists both children and adults to tolerate pain more easily.
- Massage the abdominal organs. The blood flow to these organs is increased and their functioning is improved.
- Help keep diabetes under control. It could be that laughter affects the neuroendocrine system, which monitors the body´s glucose levels.
- Make you look younger. As many as 15 facial muscles work together to help you smile and laugh. This increases the blood flow around the face, bringing the circulation into even the smallest of capillaries which, in turn, helps to make you look younger and healthier.
- Force air out of lungs and causes us to take deep inward breaths, increasing the flow of oxygen right around the body.
- Build resilience. The ability to laugh when times get tough is the best way to reduce anxiety.
- Aid with sleep. Having a good laugh prior to sleep promotes deep, restful sleep.
- Bond us to others. Laughter causes the release of oxytocin. Often called the empathy hormone, oxytocin helps bond individuals and groups together.
- Is contagious. Laughing not only lifts our spirits but also the spirit of those around us.
Okay, now that I’ve made a compelling case for a good laugh, how about developing your personal LAP (Laughing Action Plan). The key is to recall and recreate the circumstances and conditions during which you laughed the hardest. Here are some steps:
- First, extricate the gloom and doomers, the nabobs of negativity, the “humorless Harrys,” the “negative Nancys,” the “complaining Cathies,” from your life. Why waste a good laugh on these energy drainers.
- Next, recall movies or TV programs that made you laugh the hardest. Think about the euphoria you felt in the aftermath. Repeat this exercise with people in the past – or currently – who made or make you laugh. Schedule time to watch those programs and meet with those folks and get to laughing again. And check your vital signs – blood pressure, stress level – before and after a good bout of laughing.
- Now although high profile TV personalities and lying politicians are fair game, do not – let me repeat that with added emphasis – DO NOT laugh at racist, sexist, homophobic, religious, etc. “private” jokes. Purposefully end every phone conversation with a laugh.
But in the end be willing to laugh at yourself. It shouldn’t be difficult to recall one of your all-time favorite “OMIF” (Open Mouth, Insert Foot) moments. Self-deprecating ‘what the heck was I thinking’ humor can generate some the best laughs.
So laugh long, laugh hard and laugh often. Your health, wellness and creativity all depend on it.
Okay, I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow so I need to give Deborah a call beforehand.