A young child can laugh over 300 times a day whereas an adult will chuckle a fraction of this amount — often much less, if at all. It’s no joke. When life is taken too seriously, we are missing out on one of the greatest health boosting habits around. Feel good endorphins, pain management, lower blood pressure, protection from illness, a sharper mind — just a few perks a little mirth can supply. Laughter makes people smarter, more productive, and some would say, sexier.
Just what the doctor ordered
As it turns out, a good sense of humor is essential for thriving health. Not only is it pleasurable; laughter stimulates the heart and lungs, relieves stress and strengthens the immune system. It even enhances the intake of oxygen, stimulates circulation and relaxes the muscles — benefiting major organs and triggering the release of endorphins. This, in turn, leads to more happy states of enjoyment. Having a lively laugh also relieves discomfort by prompting the body to produce natural painkillers and interrupts the pain-spasm cycle of muscle disorders as well. On top of that, laughter lowers blood sugar levels — promising news for diabetics.
Laughter sharpens the mind too. Ron Berk, PhD of Johns Hopkins Medical School began using humor to alleviate his students’ lecture induced lassitude. He quickly realized that not only did his students stay awake, but there was also a noticeable spike in test scores. To support his theory, Berk and a colleague divided the class into two groups. Everyone took the same exam, but only one group received instructions that were funny. The students who were given a measure of amusement scored considerably higher on the test.
Research has shown that laughter, like love and contentment, broadens thinking, allows for adaptation to changing circumstances and spurs creativity. Scientists believe this is caused by the way humor activates the reward center of the brain. In a Stanford University study, participants were placed in MRI machines and shown Bizarro cartoons. When the jokes were found to be funny, a central area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens became active. This is the same reward circuit that pumps out dopamine when we have sex or consume chocolate. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that stimulates the frontal lobe which is where creative thought takes place. Enjoying a good laugh helps us to think out of the box and with more efficiency.
Spark a little laughter
Need inspiration to bring a bit of laughter into your life? Here are a few ideas to get you started.
– Join a local laughter yoga club.
– Tickle or be tickled.
– Keep humor close at hand with comics, photos or films that make you chuckle.
– Cultivate the habit of spending time with amusing friends and family.
– See the humor in everyday life, human foibles and all.
– Spend time with a young child — laughter is contagious.
With all the doom and gloom these days, it is important to offset the negativity with a guffaw here and there. A good dose of comic merriment and camaraderie will lighten life, improve the mind and relax the body. It may even make you more healthy to boot.
“Stress relief from laughter? Yes, no joke” Mayo Clinic. Retrieved on October 18, 2012 from: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stress-relief/SR00034/NSECTIONGROUP=2
“The Health Benefits of Laughter” Dan Ferber, Women’s Health, December 22, 2009. Retrieved on October 18, 2012 from: http://www.womenshealthmag.com
“The Benefits of Laughter” Hara Estroff Marano, Psychology Today, April 29, 2003. Retrieved on October 18, 2012 from: http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200304/the-benefits-laughter
“Laughter Yoga and the health benefits of humor” Adam Helfer, August 16, 2010. Retrieved on October 18, 2012 from: http://communities.washingtontimes.com
“Laughter Yoga: Can Happiness Heal?” Catherine Pearson, Huffpost Healthy Living, May 6, 2012. Retrieved on October 18, 2012 from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com
“8 Health Benefits of Laughter” Melissa Breyer, Care2 Make a Difference, August 23, 2011. Retrieved on October 18, 2012 from: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/8-health-benefits-of-laughter.html