I am so excited about this month's topic because anybody that knows me knows how much I like to laugh (OK and sometimes be silly). So much of the time while talking about stress or stress reduction I find the need to be more serious but this month that's not the case since the topic is laughter. Laughter is a great stress reducer. Several years ago, a friend of mine who was a co-worker emailed me a joke that was hysterical. We were both very stressed and I was laughing so hard when I called him I couldn't even speak but he knew it was me. That got him laughing and we both just lost it, tears, sides hurting, the whole shot. We must have laughed nonstop for about 10 minutes. The joke was really funny but more than that we needed the release and the laughter was like letting the steam out of a pressure cooker. Even though our co-workers thought we had lost our minds we felt much better when we finally maintained our composure. I hope you have an experience like this every once and a while because it is so liberating and good for you.
Experts Take the Benefits of Laughter Seriously by Jan Cerasaro
“The arrival of a good clown into a village does more for its health than 20 asses laden with drugs,” observed Thomas Sydenham, a seventeenth-century British physician, who may have been the first doctor to recommend laughter as the best medicine.
Nowadays, not only is it common knowledge that laughter has all sorts of physical and mental health benefits, there’s even an organization called the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor, which is made up of more than 600 doctors and health care professionals who study the effects of humor on humans. Here’s what they’re discovering:
- Laughter decreases the number of stress hormones in the body and increases the activity of natural killer cells that go after tumor cells.
- It has also been shown to activate the cells that boost the immune system and to increase levels of immune system hormones that fight viruses.
- Three minutes of deep belly laughing is the equivalent of three minutes on a fitness rowing machine.
- It takes 17 muscles to smile and 43 to frown.
- By the time a child reaches kindergarten, he or she is laughing some 300 times a day. Compare that to the typical adult who, one study found, laughs a paltry 17 times a day.
- When you laugh, your heart rate goes up. You increase the blood flow to the brain, which increases oxygen. Laughter increases your respiratory rate. You breathe faster. Your lungs expand. It’s almost like jogging, only you never have to leave the house.
- With laughter, there is an increased production of catecholamines. This increases the level of alertness, memory, and ability to learn and create.
- When you have a deep-down belly laugh, the kind that shakes you, it releases anti-depressant mood chemicals.
- After you laugh, you go into a relaxed state. Your blood pressure and heart rate drop below normal, so you feel profoundly relaxed.
So with all their prods and wires and gizmos and gauges, professionals are telling us what we knew all along: when we laugh we feel better.
Laughter is good social glue, too. It connects us to others and counteracts feelings of alienation. That’s why telling a joke, particularly one that illuminates a shared experience or problems, increases our sense of belonging.
Want to be more creative? Try laughing more. Humor loosens up the mental gears and encourages looking at things from a different, out-of-the-ordinary perspective.
Besides spackling together our conversations and relieving tension, humor and laughter are coping mechanisms. They provide distance and perspective when situations are otherwise horrible. Laughter is one way to dissipate hurt and pain.
Finally, humor helps us contend with the unthinkable — our own mortality.
Want to Inoculate Yourself with Laughter?
Humor guru William Fry, M.D., professor emeritus of psychiatry at Stanford University recommends this two-step process.
“First figure out your humor profile,” he said. Listen to yourself for a few days and see what makes you laugh out loud. Be honest with yourself. “Don’t affect a taste for sophisticated French farces if your heartiest guffaws come from watching Moe, Larry, and Curly.”
Next, use your comic profile to start building your own humor library: books, magazines, audio comedy routines, videos, youtube. If possible, set aside a portion of your bedroom or den as a “humor corner” to house your collection. Then, when life gets you down, don’t hesitate to visit. “Even a few minutes of laughter,” says Fry, “will provide some value.”
Author’s content used under license, © Claire Communications
If you ever just need to hear someone else's laughter to get you going there is a free app for iPhones called Laughing Sounds. My favorite is the small child who snorts while laughing. I'm not sure what's out there for Android but check it out.
Okay, we have missed these celebrations for this year but mark your calendars for next year. National Let's Laugh Day will be March 19, 1922, and World Laughter Day will be May 1, 2022.
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