Healing Laughter

Reflecting on the last several years I’ve noticed a few things about myself that I’d like to change. January arrived with resolutions galore, which is nothing new. This one felt different. Maybe it had something to do with my age or this season of life. I found myself wondering when did it happen? When did I become so serious? When was the last time I actually laughed until I cried? More importantly, how could I get out of this funk and find a way to include more laughter into my daily ritual?

You may be wondering why you would even want to include a daily dose of laughter at all. I’d like to share a few statistics in the hopes that you will see its importance and join the movement too.

According to Ronald E. Smith, lead scientist at the University of Washington in 1971, laughter can significantly reduce levels of stress hormones in the body. Let’s face it, we all need to find a way to get rid of our stress. It’s the basis of many diseases and discomforts so many of us deal with right now.

A recent Vanderbilt University study calculated that ten to fifteen minutes of laughter a day may burn up to fifty calories. Just by laughing! Just think of the calories we could burn by laughing while working out! Or laughing in the middle of a workout when you fall off of your balancing ball, or slowly fall over while in Tree Pose, like London Bridge when it’s falling down. Yes, I’ve done both, and laughed at myself all the way down.

The Cancer Treatment Centers of America have suggested that the benefits of laughing for a few minutes might even make you feel better for several hours afterwards. Laughter as therapy may ultimately help in the healing process as it enhances oxygen intake. Can you think of a time that you laughed until you could hardly breathe? It’s like a mini workout and does increase oxygen through the blood stream. Amazing, just from laughing!

Laughter lowers blood pressure, decreases the risk of a heart attack and the risk of a stroke. By now, you should be totally convinced that you need to laugh more. I know I am.

There seems to be quite a lot of evidence proving that laughter is a strong medicine that can help to improve our health. A good laugh triggers the release of endorphins, the feel good chemicals that promote an overall sense of well-being. It strengthens the immune system, is a great mood lifter, can relieve symptoms of pain and can protect against the damaging effects of stress on the body.

According to an old Irish Proverb, “A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book”, and I believe it.

Proverbs 17:22 states that “A joyful heart is good medicine but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want dried up (or arthritic) bones! I choose daily bouts of laughter. I choose to be joyful on purpose.

With all of the negativity continually being thrown at us through the media in general, or the daily challenges we face, it may seem hard at times to even find a reason to smile, let alone laugh. But especially BECAUSE of all of the negativity, daily doses of belly-busting laughter should be a priority.

It helps me personally to, at times, just turn off the news, or any negative social media as well as depressing movies that may trigger sadness or anxiety. Basically, take a fast from anything negative and cling to what is uplifting. Make sure to spend time with friends who are easy to hang out with, have positive outlooks, like to go to fun events, play games and laugh easily. Find a funny movie or television show and laugh away. Some of my favorite scenes are slap stick comedies watching a character fall down, run into a glass door or just act goofy. If you are having a rough day, you could even research online for something funny. There are a lot of zany people doing the craziest stunts that are caught on camera. Babies and little kids giggling always brighten the day.

Don’t take yourself too seriously. Take it from one who’s done this for years. Just because we are grown up, have had children, are bosses and CEO’s, and have huge responsibilities doesn’t mean that we can’t cut up and be silly from time to time. Give yourself permission to just let go, lighten up and laugh until you almost pee your pants. Laughter brings health and prolongs life. Why not give it a try?

Better yet, join the Laughter Heals Movement! Check out laughterheals.org, these guys know their stuff.

Namaste.

The Fitness Dr.

Reference: Smith RE, Ascough JC, Ettinger RF, Nelson DA. Humor, Anxiety and task performance. Jpers Soc Psychol.1971;19(2)243-6.

Reference: treatments/laughter-therapy-Cancer Treatment Centers of America http://www.cancercenter.com

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