So a duck and a lawyer walk into a bar… did you know there is actually a scientific name for the study of laughter? Gelotology. Laughter is such an important part of our everyday life it can actually make us healthier. Smiling and laughter release all kinds of good chemicals and hormones in our bodies, the physiological and psychological effects are well documented, and lets face it, laughing at a good joke or situation funny or not, just plain old makes us feel better. But how does it work? And how can we use it to make our lives a healthier and happier place to be?
We actually get exercise when we laugh or smile. Yes it takes fewer muscles to laugh or smile than it does to frown, but it’s much more fun, so for once I’m telling you to exercise less, smile or laugh more and you’ll be healthier. Laughter is such an important part of my life I make an effort to surround myself with friends who make me laugh.
Research shows that laughter actually protects the heart, they don’t know exactly why, but studies show that when stressed our endothelium, which is the protective layer in our blood vessels decreases allowing cholesterol to build up in our arteries. Heartfelt laughter can lower the serum cortisol released during the stress response and can therefore lower our risk of hardening of the arteries. It has also been linked to lowering blood sugar levels in people with diabetes; it increases antibodies and killer cells in our bloodstream thus helping us to fight off disease; it increases blood flow; and, get this, laughing 100 times equals the same aerobic output as 10 minutes on a rowing machine or treadmill.
So how do we use laughter in our daily lives? How do we turn around the tide of negativity and stress that is so often the bulk of our day? We simply make a choice. Decide in your head you are going to seek out the positive, the humor in any given situation. Not that all situations warrant laughter or smiling, I don’t want anyone to get punched…but, the next time you see another person, anywhere, smile at them. Not only will you feel better, they will too, and it’s fun to watch people’s reactions. Flood your mind with thoughts that make you smile, a good joke, a friend you haven’t seen in a while, a great trip you once took, a goal you reached or are going to conquer, anything positive that will bring a smile to your face or make you laugh and that’s half the battle, the body naturally takes over from there. When confronted with a stressful situation, smiling actually reverses the chemical response in your body and chances are if you smile the situation will be diffused before you can even think about stressing.
In every aspect of your daily life and interactions with others, a smile goes a long way in getting people to do things you may need or want. The next time you get ready to work out, put a smile on your face and think how great it will be, not what a burden. We do have a conscience choice over the emotions we choose to allow to flood our bodies. Laughter and smiling is a natural physical response to those emotions, and now that you know it can actually make you feel better and live a longer, healthier life, well, there’s no other choice. Laughter really is the best medicine.