It’s easy to overlook the power of laughter. But did you know that laughter can actually have profound effects on our physical and emotional well-being? That’s right! Laughter has been found to induce physiological changes in our bodies and even improve the outcomes of certain health conditions. We’ll explore the healing benefits of humor and laughter, backed by scientific research and real-life examples. So, let’s dive in and discover how laughter can be the best medicine.
Physiological Changes Of Laughter
Laughter doesn’t just bring a smile to our faces; it also leads to a series of physiological changes in our bodies. When we laugh, our heart and respiratory rates increase, and our oxygen consumption rises for a short period. Interestingly, after this initial spike, laughter helps us relax, promoting a state of calmness and well-being. While it may not be a substitute for aerobic exercise, laughter does offer some physical benefits. Believe it or not, 10-15 minutes of laughter per day can burn an extra 10-40 calories!
Moreover, laughter has a positive impact on heart function. It increases stroke volume and cardiac output, while also dilating blood vessels. After a good laugh, our muscle tone relaxes, bringing a sense of relief and tranquility. Contrary to popular belief, watching humorous videos does rev up the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), but it doesn’t increase blood pressure. On the contrary, laughter lowers the levels of the stress hormone cortisol, leaving us feeling more relaxed and at ease.
Laughter also has a profound effect on our brain. It activates the mesolimbic dopaminergic reward system, triggering feelings of pleasure and happiness. Furthermore, laughter has and effect on the immune system! It increases the production of serum immunoglobulins A and E, enhances natural killer cell activity, and raises levels of beta-endorphins (the feel-good chemicals in our body) and human growth hormone. In a nutshell, laughter is a natural and enjoyable way to boost our overall well-being.
Laughter is a good way to be come friends with ourselves. If you want to learn more about how to befriend the hardest part of our experience of life, our pain, you wont want to miss this post!
Effects on Health
The healing benefits of laughter extend beyond just the physiological changes it brings about. Studies have shown that laughter and humor can positively impact specific illnesses, improving patients’ outcomes. Here are some remarkable findings:
- Coronary heart disease: Laughing more is associated with a lower risk of heart attacks, thanks to the inverse relationship between laughter and coronary heart disease.
- Type 2 diabetes: Laughter therapy effectively delays cardiovascular complications in individuals with type 2 diabetes.
- Glucose levels: Watching a comedy show can decrease the overall rise in glucose levels after eating.
- Cardiac rehabilitation: A higher propensity to laugh correlates with fewer episodes of arrhythmias and recurrent myocardial infarctions during cardiac rehabilitation.
- Pain tolerance: Laughter increases pain tolerance, making it a natural and enjoyable way to alleviate discomfort.
- Cancer patients: Laughter therapy has been shown to improve self-esteem and mood in cancer patients, providing them with a much-needed emotional boost.
- Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): Watching funny movies or engaging in laughter and clowning can have positive effects on bronchial responsiveness and lung function in people with asthma and severe COPD.
- Hospitalized children and nursing home patients: Hospital clowns and “ElderClowns” have been found to reduce stress, anxiety levels, and agitation while increasing happiness in both children and elderly patients.
- Cognitive function: Humor therapy, such as watching a 20-minute humorous movie, has been shown to improve cognitive function, including learning ability, delayed recall, and visual recognition in older adults.
If you want to learn about how emotions can effect your pain, check out this post!
How to Get More Laughter In!
There are a number of different ways you can do this, but I wanted to explore Laughter yoga today!
Laughter yoga is a unique and increasingly popular practice that combines laughter with yogic breathing exercises. It was developed by Dr. Madan Kataria, a physician from India, who recognized the power of laughter. Laughter yoga doesn’t require jokes or humor; it’s a form of exercise that uses intentional laughter to promote physical and emotional well-being. Let’s explore a simple laughter yoga exercise that you can try:
Laughter Yoga Exercise:
- Find a comfortable and quiet space: Choose a location where you can freely express yourself without feeling self-conscious. It can be a room in your house, a park, or any peaceful environment. But really having a friend with you helps with the experience. Its much easier to laugh together than it is to laugh alone.
- Warm-up with deep breathing: Begin by taking a few deep breaths to relax your body and mind. Inhale deeply through your nose, filling your lungs with air, and exhale slowly through your mouth, releasing any tension.
- Start with clapping and chanting: Begin clapping your hands rhythmically while chanting “Ho ho, ha ha ha!” This helps to energize the body and prepare for laughter.
- Laughter exercises: Engage in a series of laughter exercises, which involve simple actions coupled with laughter. Here are a few examples:
- Mime laughter: Mime activities such as combing your hair, driving a car, or playing tennis, while laughing at the same time.
- One-minute laughter: Set a timer for one minute and laugh continuously without any reason. Let the laughter flow naturally.
- Group laughter: Stand in a circle with other participants and make eye contact. Start with one person laughing, and gradually let the laughter spread through the group.
- Deep breathing and relaxation: After engaging in laughter exercises, take a moment to practice deep breathing once again. Inhale deeply, expanding your abdomen, and exhale slowly, releasing any remaining tension. Allow your body and mind to relax.
Remember, the key to laughter yoga is the act of intentional laughter that brings about the benefits. Laughter yoga can be practiced alone or in groups, and it’s a wonderful way to experience the joy and therapeutic effects of laughter.
So no matter where you are in life, you can always benefit from bringing in the joy of laughter into your life.