You've heard the saying, "Laughter is the best medicine," right? But have you ever thought about just how true that can be?
Stress is one of our major killers. It effects us both physically and mentally which wears down our immune systems and makes us susceptible to many illnesses and disease. Stress causes our bodies to increase production of hormones such as cortisol, epinephrine, and dopamine, as well as growth hormone. But when we laugh, a physiological change occurs in our bodies, that helps to ease pain and reduce stress.
While visiting friends recently, my wife and her teammate found themselves in a losing game of pinochle. And by losing, I mean somewhere in the -600 range on the scorecard. She says,
"I am not a fan of losing, especially to my husband who was on the opposite team, and so naturally I was in a really bad mood. Every glance at that score sheet, and each of Joe's ill-attempts to hide his self-righteous grin only made things worse. My poor team partner saw my snappy attitude as encouragement for a change in scenery, so she proceeded to turn on some music and join her husband in a hilarious dance routine, which was only made funnier by her pregnant belly. I laughed so hard my stomach ached, and I couldn't dry my watery eyes fast enough to not miss any of the show. The mood totally changed after that wonderful laugh, and even though we lost the next game by about the same margin, I knew I just needed to see that dance routine one more time and everything would be better."
Many studies have been conducted on volunteers which measure blood pressure levels, hormone fluctuation, immune activity and cholesterol levels during and after they watched funny videos. The results of one such study conducted by Loma Linda University's Dr. Lee Berk and Dr. Stanley Tan, titled the 'Laughter-Immune Connection,' showed increased activity in interferon-gamma in blood samples, (IFN activates T cells, B cells, immunoglobulins, and Naural Killer cells, fights viruses, and regulates cell growth.) which suggests that laughing boosts your immune system and increases your resistance to disease.
Another of Berk and Tan's studies showed that repetitive laughter has some of the same effects on the body as exercise. Tests administered to the volunteers in the study showed that laughter affects blood pressure, hormone levels and endorphines in much the same way that exercise does. When you exercise, your heart rate increases, and you breathe faster, which sends more oxygen to your brain, and oxygenates your blood. Laughter can have the same affect.
Perhaps most benefically, laughter releases endorphines in our brain, which are our body's natural pain blockers. A study published in the Journal of Holistic Health showed that patients who were told one-liners during surgical recovery, and before pain medication was administered, perceived less pain when compared to post-surgical patients who didn't receive a dose of humor as part of their care.
I have recently made a habit of searching for laughter-inducing materials to reduce my own anxiety and stress levels. A funny video, a book of jokes, or reading through my wife's records of the funny things my kids say causes my attitude to improve, and my outlook to become brighter. So find your favorite stand-up comedian on YouTube and have a chuckle....or listen to these contagious laughs for fast, free stress relief.
'With the fearful strain that is on me day and night, if I did not laugh I should die.'
- Abraham Lincoln
- Abraham Lincoln
'A merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones.' -Proverbs 17:22
'The most wasted day is one without laughter.' - EE Cummings
'Laughter is an instant vacation.' - Milton Berle
Humor and Health - Paul E McGhee, PhD.
Laugh If This Is A Joke - Lars Ljungdahl (JAMA)
The Laughter-Immune Connection - Dr. Lee Berk, PH, MPH; and Dr. Stanley Tan, MD, PhD
Laughter Is The Best Medicine - Melinda Smith, MA; Gina Kemp, MA; and Jeanne Segal, PhD.
Humor in Healthcare - Alice Facente, RN, MSN (JHN)