Just a few days ago, it was April fool’s Day – one of my least favorite holidays (I don’t like being pranked; I think it’s rather rude). But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a sense of humor. In truth, I love a good laugh. Not only does it feel good, laughter also provides a myriad of different health benefits, including those that are physical, emotional, and spiritual. That’s why it’s vitally important that we recognize the healing power that laughter can have on us.
Since we happen to be in the death and dying business, some days can be a little grim, so we are always looking for a laugh here and there to lighten the mood.
Reasons Why Laughing is Good for You
Thanks to on-going scientific research, there’s a growing list of the health benefits of laughter.
- Laughter can lower blood pressure. As you probably know, this condition is a big problem for thousands of Americans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declare high blood pressure (hypertension) killed over 360,000 Americans in 2013 (that’s close to 1,000 deaths per day).
- Laughter relieves feelings of stress, anxiety and other negative emotions. Sadness, anger, and resentment all negatively impact our health –but laughter can help reduce the impact of those feelings. Some researchers have taken that further; calling laughter “a natural anti-depressant ” that can positively contribute to our mental health.
- Boosts our immune systems. It does so by increasing the number of T-cells and other infection-fighting antibodies.
- Clears your airways and helps you to breathe better. If you’ve ever had a good ‘belly-laugh’ you already know this is true.
- Laughter gets your heart rate up. This sends nourishment and oxygen to all the cells of your body. It’s a true, whole-body “pick-me-up.”
- Laughter fosters healthy relationships. When shared with others, laughter builds good will and intimacy among friends and strangers alike.
- Laughter releases endorphins into our brains. This well-recognized hormone is what allows the marathon runner to finish the race; fighting fatigue and reducing pain.
- It gives you a great abdominal workout. I’m sure you’ve experienced the stomach muscle pain after a long-deep belly-laugh. It’s like doing 40 or 50 sit-ups – and a lot more fun!
- It helps burn calories. Laughing can a full-body activity, so it naturally burns calories to fuel this ‘work.’
- Laughter has been used to help relieve migraine headaches. Back in 2013, Diana Lee wrote, in “Using Humor to
Cope with Migraine,” “Whether I’m in pain, experiencing severe nausea, angry about my situation or about missing out on something, scared, annoyed with myself or someone else, feeling sorry for myself or trying to cope with any of a million other things we all deal with, laughing helps.”
- It produces a sense of well-being. I’ll tell you this: all I have to do is remember the dialog of the Spanish Inquisition sketch (Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Series 2, Episode 2) and I feel good for hours. Test it for yourself, with your own ‘favorite comedic moment”. I’m confident your spirits will rise, and remain at this higher level for a span of time.
What About the Benefits of Crying?
Laughing is the emotional counterpoint to crying, and both are natural, healthy responses to particular situations. We don’t have to think about which reaction would be best; our intuition naturally leads us in the right direction. “Sometimes crying or laughing are the only options left,’ wrote Veronica Roth, “and laughing feels better right now.”
Crying can also help make you feel better, depending on the circumstance. Below, you’ll find a few reasons why crying can be good for you, both physically and mentally.
- Crying calms and reduces distress.
- It signals the need for support from others
- It helps to relieve pain through the release of endorphins and oxytocin, two natural pain and stress fighters.
- It can help you sleep better.
- Research is finding tears contain stress hormones and other ‘toxic’ chemicals which means a good cry can help relieve stress you might be feeling in a given moment.
- Tears are also anti-bacterial and help to keep the eyes clean.
- In other words, having a good cry, as odd as it sounds, can ease physical pains and lift your spirits and improve your mental health.
Bring More Laughter into Your Life…and the Lives of Others
Charles Dickens wrote, in his brilliant story of personal transformation, A Christmas Carol, “There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.” You and I know he’s right; how many times have you been in a room of people who all find themselves caught up in the progressive sharing of a point of humor? The sounds of laughter sweep through the group, until everyone is enjoying the moment immensely – and reaping the emotional, physical, and psychological benefits.
Knowing how contagious it can be, step out into your world today with the intention of helping others experience the benefits for themselves. It will bring a smile to your face, and put a bounce in your step. “
Hey, did you hear the one about the…”