Laughing Each Day Keeps the Doctor Away?
Laughing each day keeps the doctor away? This may, in fact, have some truth to it. Laughter has a very positive impact on our wellness. Laughing increases our immune system and strengthens our bodies’ defenses against invading germs and bacteria. People who laugh experience less sickness and fewer colds, or if they do get sick, it is for a shorter duration. Several years ago I wrote an article on laughter. I had done some research on the benefits of laughter after seeing a news story showing Laughter Yoga. Shortly after that, I attended a workshop and one of their exercises was evoking laughter through structured exercises. I decided to try one of the exercises at our weekly staff meeting with our personnel. The exercise was not anything too difficult. It just involved starting out with the verbalizations, “Hee, hee, hee, ha, ha, ha”. I still remember the blank stares of my colleagues as I began the exercise. Of course, I have to admit that just the idea of doing this strange exercise in front of the staff did make me giggle a bit as I know it must have been quite a scene. Hesitant, but determined, I continued on with the, “Ha, ha, ha”. The information and my experience at the workshop indicated that just starting the exercise would evoke laughter and it seemed to work as I was in stitches as we proceeded. Of course, the stares of disbelief and the thoughts about what the staff were watching helped promote more laughter, both within me and them. Yes, I guess I did look a bit silly and the more I thought about it, the more I laughed. Very soon after starting the exercise, everyone in the room was embracing a belly laugh as we rolled in laughter. Before it was done, I was crying because I was laughing so hard – as were the others. The whole episode is now a touchstone to bring in another belly laugh as we reminisce the scene over again.
I love that feeling after a good laugh. Laughing changes our bodies. The body tingles as the endorphins are dumped into our system. Calmness takes over and you feel as if you had a good workout as the physical stress and tension in your body disappear. These powerful endorphins are natural morphine-like compounds that block pain, both physical and mental. So laughing can become a means to a natural high and a pain reliever. Laughing stretches muscles throughout our face and body, our pulse and blood pressure go up, sending more oxygen to our tissues and making us breathe faster. Laughter increases blood flow, which protects us against a heart attack or other cardiovascular problems. Studies have shown that the ability to use humor may raise the level of infection-fighting antibodies in the body and boost the immune system. Laughing increases positive thoughts and boosts energy levels naturally. (Laughter is the Best Medicine: The Health Benefits of Humor, 2008).
Socially, laughing has a positive influence. First off, as I described with the staff meeting, laughter is contagious. Watching someone laugh will invoke laughter in others. I encourage you to give this a try. You may just make a list of those funny moments that take you back and make you laugh out loud even when you are sitting by yourself. Or you could join a laughing yoga class and schedule it into your life regularly, just as you do exercise. Another resource is YouTube. Check out the YouTube videos that Ode Magazine has gathered on laughter at www.odemagazine.com/funnyvideos (odemagazine.com/funnyvideos, 2009). I especially like Bodhisattva in Metro. Or you can just et up your own scenario like I did.
It does seem that spreading laughter is certainly spreading a bit of pleasure as there is a sense of joy that lingers after a good laugh. And when we are laughing, we are in the moment; we aren’t thinking about something in the future or the past, but we are in present.
Secondly, laughing together brings people together as it connects us. It elevates the mood and brings enjoyment to the social interaction. The memory of the moment shared ties us together and gives us something to talk about together as we replay the time together when laughter was shared. And after a laughing episode, we have access to the scene which lingers in our mind and our body so we can bring it back into our awareness where it brings up our laughter all over again.
Mentally, laughing gives us a feeling of well-being which stays with us even after our laughing spell has subsided. This can contribute to helping us maintain a positive, optimistic outlook during difficult times. Laughing can give us a momentary uplift when things look bleak. Laughing can help shift our perspective as using humor gives us some psychological distance and can help us when we are feeling overwhelmed with daily strife. The endorphins contribute to giving us strength and courage to move forward during difficult times. So lighten your load, give yourself a natural high, have a good laugh! (Laughter is the Best Medicine: The Health Benefits of Humor, 2008)
Laughter is the Best Medicine: The Health Benefits of Humor. (2008, July). Retrieved July 21, 2009, from helpguide.org.
Odemagainze.com/funnyvideos. (2009, July). Retrieved July 27, 2009, from odemagazine.com.Tags: laughing benefits, laughing good for our immune system, laughter has positive impact
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Janie Pfeifer Watson
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
- Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, is the founder and director of Wholeness Healing Center, a mental health practice in Grand Island, Nebraska with remote sites in Broken Bow and Kearney. Her expertise encompasses a broad range of areas, including depression, anxiety, attachment and bonding, coaching, couples work, mindfulness, trauma, and grief. She views therapy as an opportunity to learn more about yourself as you step more into being your authentic self. From her perspective this is part of the spiritual journey; on this journey, she serves as a mirror for her clients as they get to know themselves—and, ultimately, to love themselves.
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