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Laughter is the Best Medicine

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Why can’t you trust atoms? …Because they make up everything!

Did you laugh? No? I’ll admit that maybe this isn’t the most hilarious joke of all time, but if you read this with someone else who did laugh, chances are, you would have too.

According to an article in Real Simple Magazine, laughter’s main catalyst isn’t a joke, but an interaction with another person. You are more likely to laugh through a funny movie if you are in a theater full of people or with a friend or two, as opposed to being by yourself. Laughter is contagious and yet, it is not always achieved in the same way. Some will laugh at jokes that others may be completely offended by and others will laugh until their belly aches while those around them are unimpressed or confused. While what causes laughter is usually different for everyone, what laughter causes is universal. There are physical, emotional, mental, and social benefits to laughter. Here are just a few examples of each:

Physical health benefits of laughter:

1. It boosts your immune system – Mary Payne Bennett published a study in 2003 that found a “boost in immune function 30 minutes to an hour after laughing.” No wonder laughter has been known to have a healing effect!

2. It elevates your pain tolerance – A study done in 2011 by Robert Dunbar found that during laughter, endorphins are released which causes the brain to perceive less pain. If you trip, fall and scrape your knee in front of your friends (who are now laughing at you) you are more likely to laugh, get up, find a Band-Aid and move on with your day (despite maybe feeling a little embarrassed). Unlike those that trip and fall in a room by themselves or on a professional soccer field (those guys can be really dramatic, can’t they!?) who may feel more upset and hurt by the incident.

3. It keeps your heart healthy – Laughter increases blood flow and helps to improve the function of your blood vessels.

Emotional/mental health benefits of laughter:

1. It transforms your perspective – Laughter helps you look at things from a more optimistic perspective. You are less likely to harbor negative feelings while laughing.

2. It relaxes your thoughts – It’s nearly impossible to feel anxious, angry or sad while laughing! Don’t believe me? Try it!

3. It de-stresses you – Laughing more = worrying less. This one goes hand-in-hand with benefit number one in this category: the more optimistic you feel, the less stress you will feel.

Social benefits of laughter:

1. It helps to release fear – Laughter helps you curb your fears by enabling you to let go. This can lead to you taking more risks (like flying on an airplane for the first time, taking a cruise or going skydiving) and creating more memories with friends and loved ones.

2. It helps you bypass judgment – You forget about criticism, doubts and negative feelings while you laugh. It can also convey a perception to others that you are fun and easy-going, making their judgments about you more positive. Laughter brings people closer together.

3. It allows you to be more spontaneous – Laughter gets you out of your worry-wart tendencies which will help you to experience more (again, this one goes hand-in-hand with benefit number one in this category). It’s a great ice-breaker for meeting new people, as well!

So now that we know that laughter is good for you, how can you laugh more and take advantage of all of these wonderful health benefits? You can’t just take a supplemental pill once in the morning to get them, but here are a few things you can try:

  • Surround yourself with family and friends that make you happy and it will happen organically.
  • Watch a funny movie or TV show, or read a funny book. Even the comics in the newspaper will do.
  • Check out a show by your local neighborhood improv group or go to a stand-up comedy club.
  • Spend more time with the young children in your family. Laughter is contagious and I’m convinced baby laughter is by far the cutest (and sometimes the most hilarious) of them all!
  • If all else fails, fake it! Your brain can’t tell the difference between real and fake laughter, so it will respond the same. Force a smile or a laugh a few times a day and reap all of the health benefits!
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