Laugh Away Illness
What if you could laugh all your worries away? What if pain relief came boxed as a giggle? What if a guffaw could help protect your heart from cardiovascular illness? Research suggests that laughter truly is medicine for the heart, mind, and body.
Laughter’s Physiological Effect
Laughter is so powerful because it engages your whole brain. Let’s analyze how your brain handles a joke.
- The left hemisphere of your brain deciphers the words used.
- The right hemisphere connects the humor behind the joke.
- The visual sensory area of the occipital lobe generates images.
- The limbic emotional system activates a feeling of euphoria.
- And the motor sections of your brain make you laugh and smile.
That’s an entire workout for the brain!
The laughter workout extends throughout the body. Facial, diaphragm, abdominal, leg, and back muscles are stretched, as is the entire respiratory system. As muscles stretch and engage, a release of physical tension follows…and remains in effect for up to 45 minutes after laughing!
With every laugh, your pulse and blood pressure increase, thereby boosting heart rate. Maciej Buchowski of Vanderbilt University conducted a small study that calculated how many calories laughter burns. According to results, 10-15 minutes burns approximately 50 calories.
Your breath naturally comes faster when you laugh, enhancing your intake of oxygen. Blood, tissues, organs, and cells benefit from this oxygen influx. Laughter boosts blood flow, lowers blood pressure, and helps keep blood vessels relaxed. It’s safe to say that laughter is a complete cardio tonic!
Keep up the giggles and you’ll enjoy a cascade of feel-good endorphins. When we feel stressed and succumb to negative thinking, our bodies react on a chemical level. The brain releases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline that compromise immunity. The positive thoughts stimulated by laughter, on the other hand, release neuropeptides that counteract stress and its associated hormones, and stabilize mood.
Laughter also helps regulate blood sugar levels…just what the doctor ordered for insulin resistant pre-diabetics and diabetics. A study made up of 19 men and women with diabetes demonstrated the effect laughter has on blood sugar. Participants sat through a boring lecture after a meal. The next day, participants sat through a comedy flick after the same meal. Their blood sugar levels were notably lower the day they watched a comedy than they were the day they suffered through a didactic lecture.
And laughter doesn’t stop there. Other health benefits include:
- Increasing disease-fighting cells like Gamma-interferon and T-cells
- Enhancing memory and learning
- Improving creativity
- Boosting alertness
Laughter is a very personal medicine. Some laughs are loud and boisterous, while others are dainty, barely audible chuckles.
We may all have a different sense of humor, but we also all have the capacity for laughter. Give yourself the gift of humor on a daily basis at least. Whether it be laughing at a joke or a funny video…or laughing with friends and family…don’t be afraid to engage those abdominal muscles with a full-on belly laugh.
Your immune system will thank you with optimal health and wellness!