Written by Claudia Vermillion, Care Connections Specialist
"If you can laugh in the face of adversity, you are bulletproof" - Ricky Gervais
It’s fun to share a good laugh, but did you know it can actually improve your health? Believe it or not, laughter is strong medicine. It draws people together in ways that trigger healthy physical and emotional changes in the body. Laughter strengthens the immune system, boosts mood, diminishes pain and protects you from the damaging effects of stress. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humor lightens your burden, inspires hope, connects you to others and keeps you grounded, focused and alert.
Go ahead and giggle, snort, guffaw all you want. Laughing’s not only fun, but it’s also a new form of fitness. Research has shown laughing everyday has serious health benefits and can help you live longer. So hang up your sneakers (for a few minutes) and plop yourself down in front of your favorite sitcom because belly laughs can be a new fix for belly fat. In fact, yukking it up with 10 to 15 minutes of daily laughter can burn up to 40 calories. That means watching a 90-minute comedy can burn up to 240 calories which is just enough to cancel that candy bar you inhaled during the movie. Have you ever laughed so hard your stomach hurt? It turns out a good laugh session can also tone your abs because laughter engages your diaphragm and your core.
Laughter is also good for your brain. During a study of older adults in their 60 and 70s at Loma Linda University in California participants who watched funny videos performed better on memory tests than participants who sat quietly before the test. Participants who laughed had a 43.6% improvement in their memory recall abilities.
The same study about memory recall also revealed that people who laugh have much lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Stress can do a number on your mind, but laughter can help counteract those effects. Lower cortisol has many benefits like keeping your blood sugar levels low and reducing inflammation in the body. Less cortisol can also result in a better night’s sleep.
Laughing works wonders for circulation and oxygenation. The act of laughing immediately boosts heart rate, respiratory activity, and oxygen consumption. This uptick in activity is followed by muscle relaxation and a decrease in cardiovascular activity. The results? Your heart and lungs get a workout that keeps your blood pumping smoothly, lowers blood pressure over time and helps prevent cardiovascular disease.
Laughter yoga has become popular over the last few decades as a way to improve mood and self-esteem while reducing anxiety and depression. Instead of chanting “om”, laughter yoga practitioners go for the giggle to release endorphins that make you feel good all over. The real secret is that you don’t actually have to find something funny to laugh and benefit. Just making a “ha-ha-ha” sound moves the diaphragm and gets the blood and oxygen circulating. Laughing with the group soon becomes contagious and eventually leads to real laughs throughout the session.
Live. Love. Laugh…Health.