Smiling and laughing are obviously interpreted as being synonymous with feelings of joy or happiness. Everyone is aware that a person whose life is filled with laughter, is probably not morose or depressed.
When you laugh, aside from the endorphin rush, there’s also a spiritual opening. You’re not so tight inside yourself. That opening I’ve found to be a real gift, in people being able to absorb spirituality. ~ Rabbi Sydney MintzClick to tweet
It is well known among medical professionals that depression and chronic sadness often result in negative repercussions for our health. The affects that the stress of depressive disorders can have on our bodies is well established. It is also very well understood that the chemical processes that take place when we laugh equally impact our bodies, in a healthy and positive way.
Science And Laughter
The science behind humor and what happens physiologically in our bodies when we laugh is both measurable and quantifiable in its positivity.
The medical benefits of laughter are plentiful. The act of laughing has numerous beneficial impacts on our physical health, our mental states and our emotional well-being. The Remarkable Story of Norman Cousins is a brief outline of his remarkable recovery from a rare and usually fatal disease. After several years of continuous laughter therapy, Cousins experienced little to no pain in day-to-day living. Though he relied on Vitamin C to physically repair his immune system, he relied on the often overlooked medication of laughter to mentally cure his condition and live to the age of 75.
Laughter is a form of internal jogging. It moves your internal organs around. It enhances respiration. It is an igniter of great expectations. ~ Norman CousinsClick to tweet
Physiology And Laughter
In terms of the physiological effects of laughter, it has been studied and proven, that laughter reduces the volume of stress hormones (such as cortisol) circulating in our peripheral blood. This results in a cascade of positive impacts including, but certainly not limited to:
- Cardiovascular benefits via the strengthening of vessels which in turn improves the quality of blood flow throughout the body
- Benefits to our endocrine system, namely assisting the pancreas to maintain an appropriate balance between insulin and blood sugar levels via the reduction of cortisol and other stress hormones
- Improves immune health by both the reduction of cortisol but also by assisting the body to create the antibodies that are crucial to protecting the body from contracting a number of communicable diseases
- Helps to burn fat and calories as the physical act of laughing is technically a form of low impact / low stress exercise
- Facilitates the release of endorphins which cause not only an overall sense of euphoria but also act as a neurochemical analgesic (endorphins are the body’s natural pain killer)
- Possible cancer fighting properties (one study found that cancer patients who laughed more were naturally happier and therefore had lower mortality rates and generally better quality of life than those who were depressed and laughed very little)
In addition to the multiple physical advantages of laughing regularly and often, it comes as no surprise that the healing properties of laughter also play an extremely important role in the management of our mental health.
So, the amount of laughter that a person experiences can be an accurate gauge of sorts that acts as an immensely helpful tool when it comes to diagnosing a variety of existing mental disorders. Laughter can also be incredibly (although not surprisingly) effective in the prevention of such disorders and diseases before they even have the opportunity to develop into something serious enough to require therapy, counseling, or even conventional medication.
Laughter Is Good For The Soul
Lastly, the healing power of laughter obviously impacts (for the better), the state of our emotional health as well, primarily because people who are laughing and otherwise jovial are more relaxed than those who are angry. The action of laughing acts as the body’s natural muscle relaxer. This reduction in tension and stress on the body is essential.
Anger, sadness, frustration, and all of the other “not so happy” emotions that we experience from time to time create an inordinate amount of stress tension to build up in the body. That stress and tension does take its toll via the process of inflammation. Smiling and laughter are behaviors that are powerful weapons to counteract some, (hopefully all) of that tension induced scarring. For all of these reasons and more, there is little to no doubt that laughter truly is the best medicine.