As we head out on the trail in this Wisdom Note, let us remember to take time with others sharing and laughing. Even during the most difficult situations of life, times of heartache and illness, never let us forget to take time to share and laugh together with family and friends.
The more medical professionals and scientists study the impact of laughter in our lives and on our health, the body of evidence continues to mount that proves laughter is the best medicine. Let us hike this mountain of evidence today and discover why science is proving this to be true.
1. Humor and laughter offer great health benefits.
Humor is infectious. The sound of roaring laughter is far more contagious than any cough, sniffle, or sneeze. When laughter is shared, it binds people together and increases happiness and intimacy.
Laughter also triggers healthy physical changes in the body. Humor and laughter strengthen your immune system, boost your energy, diminish pain, and protect you from the damaging effects of stress. Best of all, this priceless medicine is fun, free, and easy to use.
2. Laughter is strong medicine for mind and body.
“Your sense of humor is one of the most powerful tools you have to make certain that your daily mood and emotional state support good health,” Paul E. McGhee, Ph.D.
Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humor lightens your burdens, inspires hope, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert.
With so much power to heal and renew, the ability to laugh easily and frequently is a tremendous resource for surmounting problems, enhancing your relationships, and supporting both physical and emotional health.
Laughter cheers our hearts and helps to clear our minds of worry and doubt. As we looked at in our previous note, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength,” Proverbs 17:22.
Four ways that laughter is good for your health:
- Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.
- Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
- Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
- Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.
3. Laughter and humor help you stay emotionally healthy.
Laughter makes you feel good, and the good feeling that you get when you laugh remains with you even after the laughter subsides. Humor helps you keep a positive, optimistic outlook through difficult situations, disappointments, and loss.
More than just a respite from sadness and pain, laughter gives you the courage and strength to find new sources of meaning and hope. Even in the most difficult of times, a laugh or even simply a smile can go a long way toward making you feel better. And, laughter really is contagious. Just hearing laughter primes your brain and readies you to smile and join in the fun.
Three links between laughter and mental health:
- Laughter dissolves distressing emotions. You can’t feel anxious, angry, or sad when you’re laughing.
- Laughter helps you relax and recharge. It reduces stress and increases energy, enabling you to stay focused and accomplish more.
- Humor shifts perspective, allowing you to see situations in a more realistic, less threatening light. A humorous perspective creates psychological distance, which can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed.
4. Humor and laughter offer great social benefits.
Humor and playful communication strengthen our relationships by triggering positive feelings and fostering an emotional connection. When we laugh with one another, a positive bond is created. This bond acts as a strong buffer against stress, disagreements, and disappointment.
Laughing with others is more powerful than laughing alone. It is more than just adding together the laughter. There is a compound or multiplier effect when more than one person comes together and laughing occurs.
Proverbs 5:30, “A cheerful look brings joy to the heart; good news makes for good health.”
It is important to choose and create opportunities to laugh on a regular basis. Here are some suggestions that may help to initiate the healthful practice of laughing:
- Watch a funny movie or TV show.
- Go to a clean comedy club.
- Read the funny pages or a good comic book.
- Seek out funny people.
- Share a good joke or a funny story.
- Check out your bookstore’s humor section.
- Host game night with friends.
- Play with a pet.
- Go to a “laughter yoga” class.
- Goof off with children or grandchildren.
- Do something silly.
- Make time for fun activities (e.g. bowling, miniature golfing, karaoke).
Shared laughter is one of the most effective tools for keeping relationships fresh and exciting. All emotional sharing builds strong and lasting relationship bonds, but sharing laughter and play also adds joy, vitality, and resilience. And humor is a powerful and effective way to heal resentments, disagreements, and hurts. Laughter unites people during difficult times.
Incorporating more humor and play into your daily interactions can improve the quality of your love relationships as well as your connections with co-workers, family members, and friends. Using humor and laughter in relationships allows you to:
- Be more spontaneous. Humor gets you out of your head and away from your troubles.
- Let go of defensiveness. Laughter helps you forget judgments, criticisms, and doubts.
- Release inhibitions. Your fear of holding back and holding on are set aside.
- Express your true feelings. Deeply felt emotions are allowed to rise to the surface.
Now that we have established that laughter is the best medicine, next we will learn how to bring more laughter into your life by developing your sense of humor.