There are so many different kinds of medicines available today. Every one of them comes with a list of side effects. So, which one is best? Glad you asked. Laughter is the best medicine. Now it cannot take the place of prescriptions, but it may help reduce what you are taking. What does Laughter do, you may ask. It can relax the body, boost the immune system, it triggers the release of endorphins, protects the heart and other organs, burns calories, helps reduce anger and depression and may even help you live longer.
As a general rule children tend to laugh a lot more than adults do. Children tend to be more carefree and do not have the issues of life weighing down on them. Laughter has a way of relaxing the body. It also can relieve physical tension and reduce the effects of stress. The effects can last as long as 45 minutes.
Laughter can also boost your immune system, by decreasing the stress hormone. Stress keeps our body on the defensive. Your body cannot stay in that heightened level without it causing the body to have a lower response to outside invasions. Laughing helps our bodies relax and gives it an opportunity to build up our immune cells.
Endorphins or happy hormones are chemicals in your brain that help block pain. Laughter increases these chemicals which can help reduce the amount of pain you have. The less pain you feel then the less pain medicine you will take. I have had some serious health issues and have been in pain most of my life. I cannot take pain medicines as they lower my heart rate and blood pressure. I had to have surgery about 15 years ago. The doctor told my husband she did not know how I was walking around without heavy narcotics. It was laughter.
Laughter has the ability to increase the amount of blood flow throughout your body. It actually opens up your blood vessels. The more blood you have flowing through your body allows more oxygen to be carried to your heart and other organs. This means your heart doesn’t have to work as hard thereby decreasing your chances of a heart attack or stroke.
Laughter can also burn calories. Please do not run out and cancel your gym membership. It won’t take that many pounds off, however it can help you get your body to burn a few calories. One website said laughing just 10-15 minutes a day could burn 40 calories.
Laughter can also take a tense situation and make it a bit more tolerable. I recently attended a funeral where two of the grandchildren got up to eulogize their grandfather, who by the way was a character. The granddaughter could barely speak, she was all choked up. She was trying to compose herself when his grandson told a joke about grandpa. She choked out a laugh and then they began telling stories about grandpa. One story happened when they went on vacation with grandpa and grandma. Apparently, they got into a tiff in the backseat of the car. She took his hat and went to throw it in the back side. Instead of going into the backseat it went out the moonroof. Grandpa stopped the car and made them get out. They were about half a mile from the cabin they were staying in. Of course, it was on a winding road up a hill. He left them there.
Then of course laughter can help you live longer. There was a study done in Norway that showed people who have a strong sense of humor tend to live longer. The study also included cancer patients. Those who had a more lighthearted outlook responded better to treatments and lived longer than those who had a negative outlook. It helps speed up the healing process as well. My husband and I adopted a sibling group 9 years ago. Our son had come with some very serious internal injuries that took a while to diagnose. He was 15 and had to have surgery to reattach his ribs and muscles to his sternum. He had three drain tubes coming out of his chest. I was making him laugh and he said “Mom, don’t make me laugh it hurts”, while grabbing his chest. The doctor just happened to walk in as he was saying this and he said “Keep making him laugh it will help him heal faster and will significantly reduce the amount of pain he has”.
The question is how do we laugh more in a world that seems so overrun by bad news? 1. Try watching something funny, such as funniest home videos, kids say the darndest things, funny movie or even TV/Movie bloopers. 2. Tell jokes. Three years ago, my Uncle had two strokes in his spine that left him on a vent, it was a huge stressor. My family is a bunch of jokesters, so I started sending my cousin jokes. My Resident even got involved and started giving me jokes to send. My cousin would send jokes back and I would share them with my Residents. My Uncle did end up passing away. We went to the funeral and as we are standing there waiting for the service to start, my father, another uncle and my aunt are standing there trying to figure out how to silence their cell phones. I took a picture. If my Uncle that had passed away had been standing there he would have had all their phones on silence in a matter of seconds. Laughter is what got my family through. 3. Hang out with some animals. The laser pens really come in handy for a good laugh. I have a dog that goes nuts even before she sees the red light. There is no carpet in my house, so when she runs there is nothing for her to stop with, except the wall. I should have invested in that paint they advertise as being very durable. 4. Look up church bulletin bloopers, newspaper misprints and misspelled road signs. Maybe keep a book of jokes laying around. I have one on outhouses. There is one story I have marked. I start laughing before I even get it opened.
Laughter is free and it can travel with you anywhere you go. It can make a big difference in how you feel. Just remember it takes more muscles to smile than it does to frown. Smile more every day and you can say you got some exercise in!
By: Tammy Point
NAAP Regional Director (North)