Laughter Might Not Be "the Best" Medicine, but It's Up There
We’ve all heard the phrase laughter is the best medicine, but have you ever thought about why? Fortunately, medical professionals and researchers have been curious about the scientific impact and benefits of laughter for decades and their studies have shed light on why laughter truly is medicine.
About a decade ago, medical professionals were still quite cautious in validating the positive impact and use of laughter as an adjunct prescription for treating patient ailments. However, benefits have been widely reported in various fields ranging from geriatrics, oncology, psychiatry, hospice care, and general patient care. These reports verify what we have all experienced: laughter and humor are therapeutic allies in healing.
Stimulates vital organs. Laughter produces an immediate increase in heart rate, enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, thereby simultaneously stimulating your heart, lungs, and abdominal muscles and organs.
Soothes stress and tension. After the period of increased stimulation as described above, the body naturally moves into a period of muscle relaxation which is accompanied by decreases in heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate. This explains that long sigh or aaah at the end of a good laugh and also helps to explain why laughter improves our quality of sleep.
Releases endorphins. Endorphins are the body’s natural pain killers and actively increase our sense of pleasure and well-being. Laughter is a great way to release endorphins in our body, which helps to reduce feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress while simultaneously alleviating our experience of pain.
Improves immune function. Chronic stress can be considered a chemical imbalance and it has serious negative impacts on our long-term health and wellbeing. Since laughter is proven to help complete our stress cycle and release positive chemicals (neuropeptides) in our brain and body, this prevents our immune system from getting over-taxed and diminished.
Improve sense of self. The use of laughter can be an effective coping tool to deal with challenging situations. Even though we can’t get rid of our stress, we can improve our ability to handle and cope with stress. Over time this will impact our self-trust as we realize that we are resilient and capable of overcoming challenges.
Improves mood and social connections. Not only does laughter increase our own sense of joy and enthusiasm for life, but it “strengthens our relationships, enhances teamwork, and promotes group bonding."
How To Increase Your Laugh Factor
Even if it feels a little forced at first, start by simply turning the corners of your mouth up into a smile. Even if it’s fake, you are still using the same facial muscles you’d use with a genuine smile which stimulates the same release of neuropeptides in the brain that reduce pain and increase pleasure.
Seek out funny movies, articles, pictures, memes, or jokes. The media can be oversaturated with pain, destruction, and fear. While we’re not promoting bypassing or toxic positivity, we do promote balance – so balance out the hard times with some light and funny ones for greater sustainability and resilience.
Connect with friends who make you laugh. Humor is best shared, and it’s wonderfully contagious. “After all, half of the fun in laughter, as well as healing, is sharing it.”
The holistic and expansive benefits of laughter were beautifully expressed by Scott Burton, a cancer survivor who used laughter in his recovery treatment:
Laughter made me more open to ideas, more inviting to others, and even a little stronger inside. It proved to me that, even as my body was devastated and my spirit challenged, I was still a vital human.
With virtually no negative side effects, experts are recommending we give laughter a try!
We know that life gets overwhelming, and there are times when we just feel blue and that’s okay. Remember, we don’t have to stay stuck in the dumps. Next time you need a pick me up, turn the corners of your mouth up and find a reason to laugh.