Here’s Why Laughter is Good for Your Health
“A merry heart maketh good medicine”
Laughter is the physiological response to humour. To the scientist, laughter consists of two parts – a set of gestures and the production of a sound.
When you laugh, the brain pressures you to conduct both these activities at the same time. When you laugh heartily, 15 facial muscles contract, including the zygomatic muscle in your upper lip (your ‘smiling’ muscle). Also, your breathing is upset by the epiglottis in your throat half-closing your larynx. Air intake then comes in spasms, making you gasp. In extreme laughter, the tear ducts are activated making you cry, so that while your mouth is opening and closing struggling for air, your face becomes moist and often red (or even purple!) The noises that accompany this bizarre behaviour range from sedate giggles to boisterous guffaws.
Laughter is a reflex, and reflexes evolved in our species because they have survival value. The body/mind is a single entity and the physical act of laughing informs the mind that all is well. It seems that we are hard-wired to laugh. Laughter is one of the keys to unlocking a free pharmacy that has virtually no negative side effects.
More reasons why Laughter is Good for Your Health:
- Laughter strengthens your immune system by increasing the number of natural killer cells, gamma-interferon (a disease-fighting protein), T-cells (a major part of your immune response) and B-cells (which make disease-destroying antibodies). All these cells have the power to destroy tumours and viruses. Laughter also increases the concentration of salivary immunoglobulins (Igs) which defend against infectious organisms entering through your respiratory tract. In simple terms, laughter helps your immune system function more effectively making you more able to fight off diseases.
- Laughter is a great way to handle stress and make you feel good. Problems that can be laughed at can’t so easily overwhelm you. At a biochemical level, laughter provides a safety valve that shuts off the supply of stress hormones – which if left unchecked in the bloodstream will suppress your immune system, increase the number of blood platelets (which can cause obstructions in your arteries) and raise your blood pressure.
- Laughter is the shortest distance between people. The right sort of laughter can dissolve the barriers of awkwardness and embarrassment that sometimes block communication. Laughter helps – whether talking 1-to-1 or in groups.
- Laughter leads to learning – smiles and laughter help keep you interested and motivated whether it’s in an exercise class or in other situations. The adrenaline that accompanies laughter seems to help fix information in those little protein stacks of memory – so you remember those hints and tips more easily.
- Laughter is helpful to those coping with disaster situations. The tougher the job, often the blacker the humour. Firefighters, doctors, nurses, paramedics, and police often use black humour to lighten the impact of the horrors with which they are sometimes confronted.
- The Latin for laughter is ridiculum, and an ability to see the ridiculous in others and ourselves is a wonderful survival tool.
The American Association for Therapeutic Humour reckons that the psychological benefits of laughing are quite amazing. Pent-up emotions such as anger, hate, sadness, stress and fear can all be dissipated by laughter. Laughter is cathartic. That’s why some people who are stressed out go to a funny movie or a comedy show, so they can laugh away the negative emotions. The brilliant movie ‘Patch Adams’, in which Robbie Williams portrayed a real-life ‘funny-doc’ showed to millions of us the impact that laughter can have increased mental health professionals are recognising the importance of ‘laughter therapy’ – which teaches people how to laugh.
What researchers say about why Laughter is Good for Your Health
Laughter is a great exercise. Researchers estimate that laughing 100 times is equal to 10 minutes on a rowing machine or 15 minutes on an exercise bike! Laughing can be a total body workout. It gives your diaphragm, abdominal, respiratory, facial, leg and back muscles a good workout. That’s why you often feel exhausted after a long bout of laughing – you’ve just had an aerobic workout!
Heard the one about……..