Celebration Saunas believes in holistic wellness. Since April is National Humor Month, this is the perfect time to acknowledge the therapeutic and restorative values of humor, joy and laughter.
I’m sure that you’ve heard the old adage, “laughter is the best medicine,” but you may be surprised to know just how many different ways laughter can have a positive effect on your body. Actually, using laughter as a tool to lift ailing spirits is an established notion supported by scientific research. The curative power of laughter and its ability to relieve debilitating stress and burnout may indeed be one of the great medical discoveries of our times.
Some of the benefits of laughter take effect immediately. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughing increases both your oxygen intake and your blood’s circulation, which is great for your heart, lungs and muscles. Right from the first guffaw you can notice yourself feeling more relaxed and less tense as healing humor literally courses through your veins. When you laugh, you’re also triggering your brain to release dopamine and endorphins – your body’s natural painkillers – making you actually feel better, PBS reported. All those laugh-related endorphins add up. Laughing regularly can, over time, actually help to boost your body’s immune system, not just helping you to feel better in the moment, but working to keep you feeling good in the future as well.
The fact is that laughter itself changes us physiologically. Like exercise or waving your arms around, it boosts the heart rate and increases blood flow. We breathe faster causing more oxygen to be delivered our body’s tissues. Vanderbilt University researchers published findings that indicated 10-15 minutes a day of hearty laughter can actually burn up to 50 calories. Laughter also stretches and works out muscles in your face and even your core, making a hearty bellow comparable to a type of exercise.
Did you know that laughter isn’t just a response to feeling good, it can also be a cause of it as well? Research reported by PBS found that even if you aren’t feeling particularly chipper, forcing yourself to smile or laugh can actually positively influence your mood. In the long run, this can affect your overall emotional state of mind. Laughter has been linked to reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as more positive and hopeful overall outlooks. Inducing laughter can go a long way in increasing enjoyment of happy situations, as well as helping to cope with difficult ones.
As if helping you to feel better wasn’t reason enough to start chuckling, laughter can also help make you smarter. Research has linked laughter to boosts in creativity and problem-solving ability. What’s more, an affinity for humor can help improve your memory – all the better to make sure you remember all your favorite jokes.
You’re probably already familiar with many of the social benefits afforded to us through laughter. Laughing is a meaningful way to strengthen social bonds with those close to us, as well as to form ones with new friends. Lots of laughter can make you appear friendly and welcoming to others, and encourage people to want to spend time around you. And as a shared activity, there are few things we can do with close friends and family that is more fun, relaxing and conducive to feeling good.
Laughter and joy – the benchmarks of humor – lead to improved well-being, boosted morale, increased communication skills, and an enriched quality of life. The bottom line is that no matter how you look at it, laughter is good for you.
Just to recap, here are some basic facts about laughter:
- Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.
- Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
- Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
- Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.
- Laughter burns calories. OK, so it’s no replacement for going to the gym, but one study found that laughing for 10 to 15 minutes a day can burn about 50 calories—which could be enough to lose three or four pounds over the course of a year.
- Laughter lightens anger’s heavy load. Nothing diffuses anger and conflict faster than a shared laugh. Looking at the funny side can put problems into perspective and enable you to move on from confrontations without holding onto bitterness or resentment.
- Laughter may even help you to live longer. A study in Norway found that people with a strong sense of humor outlived those who don’t laugh as much. The difference was particularly notable for those battling cancer.