Experts Take the Benefits of Laughter SeriouslyThe Proverbs declare “A merry heart does good like a medicine.” French novelist Victor Hugo author of Les Miserables penned “Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.” Thomas Sydenham, a seventeenth century British physician, who may have been the first doctor to recommend laughter as the best medicine observed “ The arrival of a good clown into a village does more for its health than 20 asses laden with drugs.”
Nowadays, not only is it common knowledge that laughter has all sorts of physical and mental health benefits, there’s even an organization called the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor, which is made up of more than 600 doctors and health care professionals who study the effects of humor on humans. Here’s what they’re discovering:
- Laughter decreases the amount of stress hormones in the body and increases the activity of natural killer cells that go after tumor cells.
- It has also been shown to activate the cells that boost the immune system and to increase levels of immune system hormones that fight viruses.
- Three minutes of deep belly laughing is the equivalent of three minutes on a fitness rowing machine.
- It takes 17 muscles to smile and 43 to frown.
- By the time a child reaches kindergarten, he or she is laughing some 300 times a day. Compare that to the typical adult who, one study found, laughs a paltry 17 times a day.
- When you laugh, your heart rate goes up. You increase the blood flow to the brain, which increases oxygen. Laughter increases your respiratory rate. You breathe faster. Your lungs expand. It’s almost like jogging, only you never have to leave the house.
- With laughter, there is an increased production of catecholmanines. This increases the level of alertness, memory, and ability to learn and create.
- When you have a deep-down belly laugh, the kind that shakes you, it releases anti-depressant mood chemicals.
- After you laugh, you go into a relaxed state. Your blood pressure and heart rate drop below normal, so you feel profoundly relaxed.
So with all their prods and wires and gizmos and gauges, professionals are telling us what we knew all along: when we laugh we feel better.
Laughter is good social glue, too. It connects us to others and counteracts feelings of alienation. That’s why telling a joke, particularly one that illuminates a shared experience or problems, increases our sense of belonging.
Despite the declaration from Thomas Mann that “Laughter is the sunbeam of the soul,”
there are certainly times in our lives when laughter seems to elude us and the clouds are all we can see. Counseling very often can provide the bridge to a happier place so that you can find your smile again and live your best life. If we can help, give us a call.
Be your best self,