Laugh it Up – Laughter is Therapy

It is a known fact that laughter can help make a person’s life better, and elminate stress. I can recall a Bugs Bunny cartoon way back in my childhood, where the closing remark was a very profound statement by Bugs: Don’t take life too seriously. You’ll never get out of it alive. Yeah, I know eventually, none of us get out of it alive, but it is certainly more fun, and better for our health if we can laugh every chance we get. And who doesn’t want to live as long as we can?

If you’re looking for reasons to laugh, they are innumerable. It might surprise some of the overly-solemn people I know to believe this, but there is also stimulus for laughter all around us. My personal credo is: If you can’t laugh at yourself, make fun of other people. No, I’m really just kidding. I don’t make fun of other people, just my in-laws, and I don’t count them as “people” because they’re relatives. And, my relatives and close family give me more reasons to laugh than any comedian, or anything I can think of, so I am lucky…I guess.

One of the great things about life is all the funny things that are free, like watching children play, watching animals-they’re natural comedians and don’t even know it; Even watching people can be amusing. The next time you go to the mall or the grocery center, if you have some extra time, just sit and observe what your fellow man is doing-you might be surprised. Never give up on a chance to find humor in anything. I’m not saying to go out and make fun of other people, but if you can find anything or any reason in your day to get an extra smile, it’s well worth it.

What are some of the healthy benefits of laughter? Studies have shown it can jump-start your immune system. A good belly laugh produces positive emotions that have the opposite effect of classical stress. Endorphins, our natural painkillers, are released from the brain, producing a sense of well-being.

Two researchers from the Loma Linda Univeristy in California have been studying the effects of laughter on our immune system for some time. Doctors Lee Berk and Stanley Tan have concluded from their published studies that laughter not only reduces stress hormones but lowers blood pressure, increases muscle flexion, raises levels of disease-fighting T-cells and proteins called Gamma-interferon and B-cells. How’s that for a laugh? I think it’s great!

Laughter also relaxes tense muscles, think about how great you feel after an intense belly laugh. It’s just impossible to laugh and be mad at the same time, well unless you happen to be in my family. But seriously, the muscles not engaged in the belly laugh relaxes. Then, after you’re finished laughing, your tummy relaxes, and you have this great contented feeling.

Laughter reduces the 4 known stress hormones-cortisol, epinephrine, dopac, and growth hormone. Laughter is a natural anti-depressant for all of us, better than any pill you can take. Experts also call belly laughing “internal jogging” because it is a good form of cardiac exercise, a heart strengthener. This is great news for anyone who is unable to engage in physical exercise.

Respiration is another benefit from a big belly laugh, it has a cleansing effect on the lungs by pushing out more air than it takes it, similar to the effects of deep breathing. This has shown to be a profound benefit to people with emphysema, and other respiratory problems.

Experts also feel that when laughter is used as part of a conventional care process it decreases pain and aids in healing. If nothing else, it will distract your thoughts from the pain, going back to an old expression, “Mind over Matter,” in which holds a great deal of truth. An ill person’s state of mind has everything to do with their recovery. And when you’re sick, if you can find anything to help aid in your recovery that is not only free of charge, but also produces no harmful side-effects, that’s incredible.

If you think about it, it could be one of the reasons you see so many people who have a hearty sense of humor live to a ripe old age. Look at Bob Hope, Milton Berle, and George Burns. It sure worked for them. So, if you see something funny, don’t just laugh, but laugh loud, it’s good for your mind, body, and soul!

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