Laughter is the best medicine!
April 1st, April Fools’ day is a timely reminder for all of us of the importance of laughter in our lives. Laughter has so many benefits. It is an instant holiday from your life. It reduces the levels of stress hormones cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline) and dopamine, and increases serotonin and endorphins which make us feel good and further reduces stress. It distracts us from things that make us anxious and angry. It reduces blood pressure (BP). It increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, boosting our resistance to disease. The release of endorphins, our natural feel-good chemicals, gives us a sense of well-being and can even relieve pain.
Laughing intensely for an hour can burn as many calories as lifting weights for 30 minutes. It is a mini workout. It makes the heart beat faster, sending large amounts of blood around the body. The increased blood flow and oxygenation to the cells and organs revitalizes us. It is a natural workout for a number of muscle groups, and even boosts the response of disease-killing cells all over the body. Laughter has also been shown to increase memory, intelligence, and creativity.
We laugh as a natural response to things we find funny – people, events, images, sounds, thoughts, memories or physical feelings. The physical response is very quick. When our senses are exposed to something “funny”, an electric current runs through our nervous system to our cerebral cortex. The higher brain functions in the left hemisphere decode the words in a very analytic approach, while the more creative right hemisphere understands what’s funny, and “gets it”. The visual centre of our brain then forms an image of the amusing idea, while our emotional (limbic) system releases chemicals that boost our mood and make us happy. Lastly, our motor functioning makes us laugh, smile, or double over depending on just how funny it is.
Laughing gives your diaphragm a work out as well as exercising facial, leg, back, and abdominal muscles. Laughter is also shown to prevent and fight cancer by increasing the levels of IFN (Interferon-gamma). IFN stimulates the B, T and NK cells, and immunoglobulin, and it also regulates cell growth. These compounds are integral to a healthy immune system, and they also form the lines of defence against cancer and the growth of harmful tumours in the body. Laughing every day keeps all sorts of doctors away and ill-health at bay.
If you have high blood pressure (BP), laugh more and watch your BP decrease. Studies have shown that while laughter initially increases arterial BP due to the physical act of laughing, the rise is followed by a reduction to below normal resting BP. Blood pressure is one of the major causes of heart disease and cardiac issues for many people.
Socially, we make friends and connect with people through laughter. We bond over a shared sense of humour and love to see others laugh. There is little downside to laughing. When laughing particularly hard, your abdominal muscles can start to hurt. This is the same for any muscles that are not used to being worked out!
Babies are experts at laughing. We can learn from them. Indeed, all areas of our lives can benefit from laughter and fun. A recent Bright HR study showed that people who have fun at work were less likely to take sick days. 58 per cent of people who did not have fun at work had taken 11 or more sick days in the previous year; and 62 per cent of people with no sick absences from work had ‘fun at work’ in the previous three months.
This week, laugh more and get the world laughing with you. Enjoy!