Ha-Ha Health: Why Laughter Really Is the Best Medicine

Laughing Kid (C) Mdf, CC-BY-SA 3.0

Have you ever felt lousy, but started to laugh and instantly felt better? This is something that does actually happen to me. Sometimes, I feel tired or unwell, but then I start laughing at something funny, such as a joke, and I begin to feel more energized and rejuvenated. I wanted to find out the scientific explanation for why this phenomenon happens. Also, I wanted to find out other reasons why “laughter is the best medicine”, so I researched the topic and found the following explanations.

Laughter releases a large number of endorphins into the brain, which is beneficial for one’s health. Endorphins are hormones that transmit signals of euphoria and well-being throughout the brain. They are produced by the pituitary gland, along with the central nervous system, when your body is under stress or pain. Some examples of when this happens are when you exercise or when you laugh. They are our body’s pain relievers because of the fact that they interact with our brain’s opiate receptors. Receptors are cells in the body that respond to signals; the opiate receptors specifically deal with pain, reward, and addiction. So, when the endorphins interact with these receptors, the receptors respond by lessening any pain that the body might be experiencing. Since this process also produces an all-around happy feeling, it can help with one’s mental health as well, by lessening the severity of symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Laughter also has a very positive impact on multiple body systems. For instance, it helps one’s cardiovascular system, as it increases the flow of blood in the body. This can lessen the chance of problems in the cardiovascular system, such as a heart attack. When laughing, one’s heart beats faster, and one also breathes in a great amount of oxygen. This causes the heart to have to pump more blood and oxygen throughout one’s body, which in turn makes the blood vessels widen; one’s blood pressure is decreased because of this. Laughing out loud also boosts the immune system by increasing levels of natural killer cells in the body. Natural killer cells are cells in one’s immune system that can kill both tumour cells and cells that have viruses, so if the number of natural killer cells in one’s body is increased, so is one’s ability to fight off disease.

Norman Cousins (C) Mdf, CC-BY-SA 3.0

The late Norman Cousins, a prominent journalist from the United States, healed himself of a devastatingly painful, debilitating, and life-threatening illness simply through the power of laughter. The doctors told Cousins that his malady, known as ankylosing spondylitis, was caused by stress. Thus, he reasoned that, since stress was a negative feeling, its effects could be reversed by positive feelings. So, he asked his nurses to read him funny pieces of writing and show him comedic movies. He later checked himself out of the hospital; he stayed in a hotel and watched hilarious movies nonstop. He found that only 10 minutes of good, strong laughter resulted, for him, in 2 full hours of sleep, without any pain at all. Gradually, he got better and returned to his former job. He remained a prominent advocate of the healing effects of laughter throughout the rest of his life.

Image result for madan kataria
Madan Kataria (C) Mdf, CC-BY-SA 3.0

 When an Indian doctor named Madan Kataria, known as the “Guru of Giggling“, first asked strangers in a park to fake laughter, he found that their laughter, while not real at first, eventually became real. He realized that, by doing this, the people were reaping the healthful rewards of laughter, so he developed the process now known as “laughter yoga“. When doing laughter yoga, one first has to try to fake laughter. After a while, one’s laughter will actually become genuine. Then, after one has finished laughing the first time, one begins doing some breathing and relaxation exercises; this step is the part that puts the “yoga” in “laughter yoga”; without it, one would just be laughing and not doing yoga. After these exercises, one then repeats the process of fake-laughing, then really laughing, then breathing, all over again. People all over the world now practice laughter yoga, and by doing so, enjoy the many proven health advantages of laughter.

I hope this blog post has proved to you why laughter really is “the best medicine”! Now that you know the health benefits of laughter, go tell a joke to someone! You might just be helping to increase their health, both physical and mental, in the process.

Thanks for reading!

Gabby Salumbre

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