Welcome back to Wellness Wednesday! Have you ever heard the saying that laughter is the best medicine? There may be something to this… According to the Mayo Clinic, “A good sense of humor can’t cure all ailments, but data is mounting about the positive things laughter can do.”
Laughter can have both short-term and long-term benefits.
Laughing can make us feel better mentally, but it also causes physical changes in our bodies. It can:
- Stimulate our organs. When we laugh, we automatically take in more oxygen. This helps to stimulate our lungs, heart and muscles. Laughing can also increase our brain’s release of those feel-good endorphins.
- Activate and then relieve our stress response. “A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response, and it can increase and then decrease your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.” (Mayo Clinic)
- Relieve tension. Because of the increase in oxygen when we’re laughing, our circulation may increase, which can help our muscles relax.
Laughter can also have long-term benefits. It has the potential to:
- Improve our immune system function. Humor can increase the production of antibodies. The positive thoughts associated with laughter can also “release neuropeptides that help fight stress.” (Mayo Clinic)
- Reduce pain. Laughter can also increase the production of endorphins, which act as the body’s natural pain killers.
- Make us happier with our lives. Humor can help us get through tough events/situations, and it can act as a bridge to help us connect with others.
- Improve our moods. Because it can increase the production of dopamine, laughter can help lessen the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Improve short-term memory in older adults. A study conducted at Loma Linda University tested whether humor could improve the short-term memory of older adults. Check out these results:
Learning ability improved by 38.5% and 24.0% in the humor and control groups, respectively (P = .014). Delayed recall improved by 43.6% and 20.3% in the humor and control groups, respectively (P =.029). Within the humor group, delayed recall (43.6%) was significant compared with learning ability (38.5%) (P = .002).
The conclusion was that “humor can have clinical benefits and rehabilitative implications and can be implemented in programs that support whole-person wellness for older adults.” (PubMed)
With all these benefits, who wouldn’t want to laugh? I’ve often said that besides my faith, my sense of humor is what gets me through the day-to-day of life with fibromyalgia. When we can find the humor in everyday life, we can contribute to our sense of wellbeing and perhaps even improve our overall wellness.
Adding Humor to Our Lives
There are many ways we can add a little levity to our days. On those days when we’re feeling less-than-cheerful, we may have to look a little harder for the humor in things, but if we try, we can usually find something to laugh at. Here are some ways to add a little humor:
- Watch a funny movie. Of course, each person will have their own idea of what’s funny.
- Spend time with people who make you laugh. Make it a priority to spend time with those people who share your sense of humor.
- Look at what’s ‘different’ in a situation. As an example, those memes of dogs wearing shirts and using human hands or the goats who are running around and suddenly fall over stiff-legged….
- Check out websites that share humorous items. One example that I thought of right away was my friend Caz at Invisibly Me. She shares a monthly “funnies” post. You can check out her January post here.
- Find things that make you chuckle – photos, cards, etc. and keep them where you can see them. That way, when you’re having a bad day, you can look at them and hopefully lift your spirits.
Having a sense of humor and making laughter a normal part of our lives can help us in so many ways. Not only can humor improve our outlook on life, it can help improve our physical health. Laughter really may be the best medicine!
Do you find humor in everyday life? What makes you laugh most? Please share!