Can you recall the last time you had a really, REALLY good laugh? I’m talking about the kind of laugh where you are laughing so hard that you have to hold your belly cause it hurts or better yet, tears start to run down your face. Has it been a while? It’s been a while for me too!
In fact, I think the last time I laughed that hard was back in March (yikes!). It was at the beginning of Covid when we were starting to self isolate and many people were working from home. There were all sorts of crazy videos floating around on the internet and my boyfriend sent me one of a talking dog complaining about his owners being home all day. I don’t know why but I thought this video was hilarious. Seriously, I watched that thing over and over again until tears were running down my cheeks. And you know what? I felt amazing afterwards!
It’s no coincidence that your body feels like jello after a really good laugh. Laughter activates your body’s natural relaxation response which causes a release of endorphins that help you feel more relaxed physically and mentally. In fact, studies have shown that a good laugh can leave your muscles feeling relaxed for up to 45 minutes. And that’s no joke!!
The study of laughter, which is called gelotology, has been around since the early 1960’s. One of the first people to actually make the connection between laughter and physical pain was Norman Cousins.
Norman was diagnosed with a rare disease called ankylosing spondylitis. This painful condition left Norman immobile and, according to his doctor, there was little chance for recovery. Norman was not willing to accept his fate and he set out to find a solution.
Knowing that negative emotions can have a detrimental effect on the body, Norman wondered if the opposite were true. Could happy thoughts have a positive effect on the body?
In an effort to test his theory, Norman chose to focus on laughter as a way to combat his unbearable pain. After watching shows like Candid Camera and Marx Brothers films, he quickly discovered that ten minutes of hearty laughter would reduce his pain for up to two hours. It was like a miracle drug!
The reason laughter was able to reduce Norman’s pain is because laughter causes a release of endorphins which are your body’s natural painkillers. These endorphins can go a long way toward relieving chronic pain symptoms AND there’s no side effects!
After several years of using “laughter therapy,” Norman experienced little to no pain in his day to day living. He would later document his experience in a book called, “Anatomy of an Illness.”
Studies have found that laughter can benefit your body in other ways such as:
Lower Blood Pressure – High blood pressure is so prevalent these days. Lowering your blood pressure will naturally lower your risk of a heart attack and/or stroke.
Reduce Stress Hormone Levels – By reducing your stress hormones you can lower your anxiety and boost your immune system.
Improve Cardiac Health – Did you know that laughter is actually a great cardio workout? A good belly laugh can burn a similar amount of calories per hour as walking at a slow to moderate pace.
Act as a Natural Antidepressant – Laughter activates the release of serotonin which is similar to how antidepressants affect the brain. It’s not clear how long the effects last but even if it’s just a brief period it is definitely worth trying.
Promote a Sense of Togetherness – Laughter is contagious which is why when one person starts laughing, others will laugh even if they don’t know what they’re laughing at.
I realize that what is happening in the world right now is no laughing matter but that doesn’t mean we have to stop laughing. Life brings challenges and we are facing some big ones but laughter can take you to a place where you can view these challenges from a more relaxed, positive and joyful perspective. And that sounds like good medicine to me!
So whether it’s a video of a talking dog, listening to a laugh track on YouTube or watching funny movies, finding at least one thing to laugh at every single day will make all the difference in your physical, mental and emotional well being. Laughter truly is the best medicine so give yourself a big dose today!
Cheers to great big belly laughs 🙂