Is a roaring belly laugh part of your every day practice? When you laugh, you burn about 40 calories each time. Over the course of a year, that adds up to almost four pounds — just for laughing!
Laughter may not be your best medicine, but it is a prescription that you should add to your pill box. If you are healing or managing a chronic illness, one of the best things you can do is develop a sense of humor and start laughing every day.
Humor vs. Laughter
According to American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, “Humor is a prelude to faith and laughter is the beginning of prayer.” Humor is good, but laughter is better. Humor improves emotional and social feelings, but laughter causes positive psycho-physiological responses that have been measured in clinical studies. The chemicals and hormones released by laughter have many beneficial effects.
If you are in pain, the chemicals and hormones released from laughing will lessen the pain you feel. A study done in Japan showed that people in pain from rheumatoid arthritis had measurably less pain when they watched Rakugo, a show featuring artists telling funny stories.
Laughter Strengthens Your Heart
For those of us with cardiac issues, laughing will improve our cardiovascular function and strengthen our hearts. Similar to exercise, intense laughter temporarily increases respiratory depth and oxygen consumption. After your bout of laughter, your muscles relax and your respiration, heart rate, and blood pressure decrease significantly.
The good chemicals released by laughter also boosts your immune system. Actually, just thinking about laughing will make your body more capable of fighting viruses and speed your healing process.
There are many documented examples that tie the biochemistry of laughing to healing illness. Do you remember the movie, “Patch Adams”? It was based on the life of Dr. Hunter Campbell, M.D., who integrated laughter into medical therapy. The hospital he started evolved into the Gesundheit Institute, which brings laughter to patients and teaches humanitarianism to medical students.
When you start laughing, it leads to more laughing, smiling and good feelings. Laughter relaxes you and improves your feeling of well-being as it reduces stress levels by decreasing your stress hormones. When faced with difficulties and worry, laughter will shift your focus so you can see new possibilities.
Just Do It
But talking about laughing is not the same as laughing. Here are some suggestions to get you started.
- Tell or listen to jokes, even bad ones.
- Watch or listen to comedians.
- Listen to other people laughing or find and listen to a laugh track.
- Spend time with fun, playful people.
- Try Laughter Yoga or join a laughter club.
- Watch funny videos. There are lots of them on YouTube.
If you want more happiness in your life, start laughing. The people around you will laugh, too, because laughter is contagious.
The featured video is my nephew at our local farmer’s market laughing after he learned how to blow bubbles into his lemonade. I hope it makes you laugh as much as I did.