Did you hear the one about laughter being good for your health?
Yes, it’s true. Laughter may not necessarily be the best medicine, but some hearty guffaws can do a lot more to keep you healthy than you might think.
There’s even a field of study, called gelotology (“gelos” is Greek for laughter), which is proving that laughter has both psychological and physiological benefits. Scientific American notes that numerous clinical studies confirm that each time you laugh:
- Your pituitary gland releases its own opiates, which suppress pain.
- You produce more immune cells, antibodies and natural killer cells, which help your body fight off infections and accelerate its natural anti-carcinogenic response.
- You decrease your levels of the hormone epinephrine, which plays a role in hypertension and heart failure.
Other researchers have found that laughter may help in lowering your blood pressure, improving your blood flow and oxygenation of the blood, and reduce your chances of getting a cold. One study of people with diabetes found that their blood sugar levels dropped after they watched a comedy.
Hearty laughter also may offer some of the same advantages as a mild workout. It’s a fun and easy way to boost your heart rate and expend some energy. Researchers have found that 10-15 minutes of laughter burned 50 calories.
Last but not least, laughter can make you smarter and more creative. A psychologist and laughter researcher believes that laughter may improve mental performance by accelerating the heartbeat, thus increasing oxygen supply to the brain. And according to humor guru William Fry, M.D., of Stanford University, humor and creativity work in similar ways – by creating relationships between two disconnected items, you engage the whole brain.
So what can you do to bring more chuckles, chortles, giggles and glee into your life? The best answer might be to spend more time with your family and friends, since you’re 30 times more likely to laugh when you’re with other people than when you’re alone. You also can check out these 7 laughter exercises or even try some laughter yoga. As they say, different jokes for different folks.
And even if laughter doesn’t add years to your life or cures your aching joints, so what? It’s bound to boost your spirits, and that alone makes tickling your funny bone one of the best things you can do for your health and well-being.
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Photo credit: Brandon Milner