Laughter!  Is it really the best medicine?

What’s your laughter style?  The chuckle, the titter, the giggle, the chortle, the cackle, the belly laugh, the sputtering burst, snicker, snigger, guffaw, the snort.  Fake laughter, nervous laughter, hysterical laughter, inappropriate laughter, silent laughter and contagious laughter everyone has  probably experienced them all!

When’s the last time you had a good laugh?   “I believe that if people can get more laughter in their lives, they are a lot better off,” says Steve Wilson, MA, CSP, a psychologist and laugh therapist. “They might be healthier too.”  Some researchers think laughter might be the best medicine.  It can help you feel better and put that spring back in your step.

What can laughter do for our health?

Physical Health benefits

  • Boosts immunity by boosting the number of antibody producing cells and enhances the effectiveness of T-cells
  • Lower stress hormones by reducing cortisol and epinephrine
  • Decreases pain –  the brain releases endorphins when we laugh
  • Relaxes your muscles
  • Prevents heart disease by causing a dilation of the blood vessels and increasing blood flow.

Mental Health Benefits

  • Adds joys and zest to life
  • Eases anxiety
  • Relieves stress
  • Improves mood

Try feeling anxious, angry or sad when you’re laughing.  Laughter makes you feel good.  The good feelings you get when laughing remains even after the laughter subsides. Humor helps you keep a positive, optimistic outlook through difficult situations, disappointments, and loss.  Even in the most difficult of times, a laugh or a smile can help you to feel better.  As Mark Twain says “Humor is tragedy plus time”.  Laughter is really contagious.  Just hearing others laugh readies you to smile and join in the fun.

Social benefits

  • Strengthens relationships
  • Attracts others to us
  • Enhances teamwork
  • Helps diffuse conflict
  • Promotes group bonding

Humor and playful communication strengthen our relationships.  Laughter generates positive feelings and fosters 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.

How can you add more laughter into your day?

  • Watch a funny movie or TV show.
  • Go to a comedy club.
  • Read the funny pages.
  • 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 around with children.
  • Do something silly.
  • Make time for fun activities.

Laughter is a part of life that is natural and instinctive. Infants begin smiling during the first weeks of life and laugh out loud within months of being born.  Researchers aren’t sure if it’s actually the act of laughing that makes people feel better. A good sense of humor, a positive attitude, and the support of friends and family might play a role, too.  But while we don’t know for sure that laughter helps people feel better, it certainly isn’t hurting.

So let’s laugh. What makes you laugh? Tell us your favorite funny movie, or how about a good joke?