Ever hear the saying, “a laugh a day keeps the doctor away”? Okay, maybe it was an apple, but research shows the same may be true for laughter.
When you laugh, stress hormones like Cortisol, decrease. When elevated, Cortisol can cause serious health issues such as weight gain, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. It can even affect your memory and weaken your immune system. And something else happens while you’re laughing away those stress hormones. Cells that help fight off viruses and disease, increase. Laughter may really be the best medicine.
The benefits of laughter don’t stop there. Here are a few more:
· Increases vascular blood flow. By reviving blood circulation and increasing oxygenation of the blood, a hearty “hardy-har-har” may be a powerful ally in the fight against heart disease.
· It’s actually a work out! According to research, laughing 100 times is equivalent to 15 minutes on a stationary bike. Hey, maybe you really can laugh your – behind off.
· Exercises face muscles. Worried about those wrinkles, Baby Boomers? Laughing works out approximately 30 facial muscles. Ever laugh so hard your cheeks hurt? Exactly.
· Pain relief. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, feel-good chemicals that promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
Laughter therapy is on the rise. Hospitals have used it for decades. Remember “Patch Adams”? And recently, “Laughter Yoga” has become a popular way to cope with stress. But you don’t need to attend a class to laugh. You can watch silly animal videos on YouTube, treat a funny friend to lunch or laugh in the car on your way to work.
So prescribe yourself some laughter. What a fun, natural way to improve both your physical and mental health!
A word of warning though, laughter is contagious.
Stacey Krout Minor, PhD(c), MSN, RN