Laughter - Best Medicine

Laughter benefits the mind and body in many ways. In fact, it is one of the healthiest things a person can do physically and mentally. It is free, has no negative side effects (except maybe some sore stomach muscles the next day), and can be enjoyed by anyone most anytime. Unfortunately, laughter may not happen as often as it should in today's modern, fast-paced society.

A recent article on the website Relishing Life points out that, "By the time a child reaches nursery school, he or she, will laugh an average of 300 times a day. Adults laugh an average of 17 times a day." Kids understand the need for laughter; it comes naturally and spontaneously to them.

Laughter is fun and feels good, but there are many other reasons to laugh as well.

Physical and Mental Benefits of Laughter

Laughter is great for the body, mind and soul. Let's look at a few specific benefits to a good hearty laugh:
  • heart protection -- Research has shown that people with heart disease are 40% less likely to laugh than people without heart disease. Laughter exercises the heart muscle and reduces the levels of many potentially heart damaging stress hormones such as cortisol, dopamine, adrenaline, and growth hormone. While these hormones are necessary in emergency situations, they can lead to increased inflammation and an increased heart disease risk when they are constantly elevated.
  • lower blood pressure -- When a person laughs, blood pressure temporarily rises and then quickly decreases to below normal. People who laugh regularly have lower standing blood pressure than those who laugh less frequently.
  • laughter is great exercise -- A hearty laugh is a good workout for more than just the heart muscle. It also exercises the diaphragm, stomach, respiratory, facial, leg and back muscles. It is a great aerobic exercise because it increases the body's ability to use oxygen. It is like "internal jogging." A hearty laugh can burn as many calories as several minutes on a stationary bike or rowing machine.
  • immune system booster -- Laughing increases the number and activity of natural germ and disease killer cells. It appears to be a switch that turns these cells on in greater numbers.
  • improved brain function -- Laughter stimulates both sides of the brain and enhances learning. It helps to keep the brain alert and improves memory.
  • reduces stress -- Laughter reduces stress levels, elevates mood, and improves emotional health. It releases endorphins into the body, which are the body's natural mood enhancers. Laughter also gives perspective on life, changes the way the mind thinks, and suppresses feelings of being overwhelmed.
  • laughter creates a social connection -- A healthy sense of humor reflects a healthy level of self-esteem and shows self-acceptance and self-respect. These feelings often translate into healthy relationships. Humor enhances our ability to connect with others and find common ground. It is an important part of relationships, whether with family, friends, partners or colleagues. Humor brings people together in a shared experience.

Find Laughter Where You Can

Laughter is critical to living a healthy and balanced life. Take the time to find humor in life and better health may follow. Surround yourself with people who like to laugh. People who like to laugh often attract other people who like to laugh.

Humor can be found most anywhere and in most situations if we are receptive to it. Look for humor everyday.

Take a five minute humor break where you spend a few minutes reading, watching, or listening to something funny. Watching children is another great source of humor. Do whatever it takes to find ways to laugh. You'll be glad you did.
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