Hear a good joke today? Don’t hold back when it comes to laughing. Research shows that people who laugh may live longer and stronger. Find out why.
Even the best of us can sometimes feel too overwhelmed, too tired, or too tempted to do the things that put our health first.: Eat smart. Don’t drink. Avoid sugar. Exercise. Laugh.
Wait a minute. Laugh? Hey, since when is laughter work?
It’s not, but we forget that it’s essential to good health because it seems so natural, and well, fun. We’ve gotten used to thinking that staying healthy demands extra thought or effort.
Whoever said “laughter is the best medicine” was very wise, as modern medicine is proving time and time again.
That’s because your emotions have a tremendous impact on how your immune system and nervous system function. The field of “psychoneuroimmunology”, which is the science that investigates this link, gained attention in the 1970’s and continues to be a very active area of research.
Over the past couple of decades, researchers have shown that depression, anxiety and loneliness are linked to inflammation and heart disease.
One study found that in comparison to control groups, people with anxiety had a nearly three times higher chance of developing coronary heart disease when evaluated at a 7-year follow-up.
A groundbreaking study in the 1990’s compared 450 depressed people with a control group of 1000 members, and found that those in the depressed group were nearly twice as likely to suffer from a first time heart attack over the course of the 13 year study.
The Chemistry of Emotions
In response to grief, anxiety, depression or other difficult emotions, your immune system produces certain proteins called cytokines, which contribute to inflammation in your body.
Negative emotions have not been shown to increase the risk of developing diabetes or cancer, but are widely believed to exacerbate the progression of these illnesses once you have them.
Research has even implicated cytokines in chemotherapy resistance, and in the transition of tumor cells into full-blown cancer.
We all have heard stories of cancer survivors who credit their speedy recoveries or remissions to a positive, upbeat attitude, and the determination to not let cancer get them “down”. It’s not just their imagination.
While anxiety and grief raise cytokine levels, laughter, happiness, and self-esteem have all been shown to lower the expression of cytokines that cause inflammation.
Laughter has other immediate and long-lasting health benefits too:
- Laughter is cleansing: the convulsions you experience when you laugh move lymph fluid around your body which helps clear waste products from your organs and tissues.
- Laughter boosts your immune system: by increasing production of disease fighting antibodies and T-cells.
- Laughter oxygenates your body: a good belly laugh increases the amount of oxygen you take in, which circulates more of this life sustaining and energizing element throughout your cells and organs. Cancer cells are destroyed, and many bacteria and parasites don’t survive well in the presence of oxygen. Better breathing and oxygenation also decrease anxiety.
- Laughing is exercise: at the same time that you distribute more oxygen throughout your body, you also boost the circulation of blood, exercise your diaphram and stomach muscles, facial muscles, and induce other healthful body movements. The harder you laugh, the greater the effect!
- Laughter decreases stress hormones: like cortisol and epinephrine which put your body into a “fight or flight” mode which is good when it’s really needed, but breaks your body down and suppresses immune function.
- Laughter creates a feel good, natural “high”: Serotonin and other mood and immune boosting chemicals are released when you engage in healthy laughter. These chemicals are responsible for improving your outlook on life, diminishing anxiety and depression, and reducing stress.
Think of how much money the drug industry makes trying to replicate the effects of laughter when you can produce them on your own...FREE... just by regular laughing!
A Laugh A Day Keeps Stress At Bay
So share jokes with your friends and loved ones! Here’s one to get you started:
The CEO of a large HMO dies and goes to heaven. St. Peter shows him to a lovely villa filled with wonderful music, picturesque views, and a full staff of servants to cater to his every whim, and prepare delicious gourmet meals.
The CEO exclaims, "This is heaven!"
"Yeah, well, don't get too comfortable," says St. Peter. "You've only been approved for a three-day stay”.
If you thought it was funny, you know the stress of dealing with HMO’s and insurance claims. So keep laughing to spare yourself the negative emotions!
Want to laugh while you learn? Loretta LaRoche is an internationally known stress management consultant-and very funny lady-who has a made a career out of teaching people that good health demands finding humor and laughing everyday.
Sometimes watching something funny is the easiest path to laughter. Watch Laugh Through Life with stress and laughter expert, Loretta LaRoche and laugh your way to good health!
Share a fun and easy way to health health...as they say, “laugh and the world laughs with you!”
Nature Medicine 14, p 231-233 (2008): “ A Matter of the Heart”, by Amy Coombs.
Therapeutic Benefits of Laughter
Laughter is Good Medicine for Reducing Stress, Enhancing Brain Chemistry, by Mike Adams
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