4th Annual LaughFest returns to Grand Rapids with big names to benefit Gilda’s Club

LaughFest in Grand Rapids kicks off in just less than two months, from March 6 to March 16th across West Michigan. The lineup features big names like Jim Gaffigan, Chris Rock, Lily Tomlin and Jay Leno. Tickets are now on sale, and the schedule is live on the LaughFest website.

2814128135_c44f371df7The 10 day festival was created to celebrate the benefits that laughter gives to an individual’s emotional health and wellbeing. All proceeds from LaughFest benefit Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids, created to support cancer patients and their loved ones.

While you’re planning which comedians you’re going to catch at this year’s LaughFest, you might be wondering if laughter really can improve your health?

In short, yes, but it has been difficult to pinpoint why and how that is true. Evolutionary psychologist, Robin Dunbar, of Oxford has studied the physical act of laughing and those benefits.

Simply stated, the muscular movements of laughing trigger the release of endorphins in the brain, which provides a “feel-good” effect. Endorphins also help resist pain, making laughter a bit of a pain reliever. This also contributes to group bonding and the evolution of highly social humans. Although we know what laughter triggers in the body, research is still preliminary. We do not yet know what triggers laughter itself.

A chuckle and a good hearty, belly laugh decreases stress, helps a person develop coping skills, improves blood pressure and blood flow, provides a burst of energy for exercise, manages pain, boosts social skills, boosts the immune system, energizes the organs, and reduces aggression.

Not only that, but laughing can actually help you burn calories throughout the day (and provide a fun little abdominal workout!) So how does it work? Laughing burns calories because it raises your heart rate by about 10 to 20 percent. In doing so, your metabolism increases, and actually stays increased allowing you to burn calories even when you stop laughing. The number of calories burned varies, with one study from Vanderbilt University Medical Center saying that laughing for approximately 15 minutes burns between 10 and 40 calories.

Photo credit: Doug88888

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