A merry heart doeth good like a medicine…Proverbs 17:22. The power of laugher has long been recognized by both medical and spiritual experts. Dating back to the 1300s, surgeons used laughter to distract patients in pain. From the slight giggle to a belly chuckle, laughter has many benefits.
From brain scans, neuroscientists have compiled evidence that laughter triggers chemical responses in the brain that lead to feelings of pleasure and a sense of well-being. Laughter also appears to go beyond the belly and the brain—arteries respond to it in healthy ways that improve blood flow and long-term health.
Laugher releases endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. Endorphins are the brain’s natural pain reliever. These feel-good hormones are associated with a runner’s high, when we fall in love or eat a delicious meal. When you feel happy and all seems right with the world, you are feeling the effects of serotonin. This hormone boosts our mood, improves memory, sleep and other functions. Dopamine affects the pleasure center in our brain.
Deep breathing during laughter stimulates circulation, aiding in the relaxing of muscles for up to 45 minutes after! At the same time, heart rate and blood pressure are lowered. Laughter boosts the immune system by releasing neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more serious illnesses. Laughter lowers stress levels, stimulates organs and creates a positive outlook on life.
Laughter burns calories. Dr. Buchowski, from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, discovered that 10 to 15 minutes of heavy laughter can burn between 10 and 40 calories. A good laugh causes the abdomen muscles to contract and expand similar to the motions that occur during abdominal exercises. The diaphragm and facial muscles get a workout as well. The rate at which calories are burned depends on the individual’s body type as well as how deep and genuine the laugh was. For instance, a deep belly laugh would burn more calories than a light-hearted chuckle. But don’t ditch your exercise regimen yet. To put this in perspective, a person would need to laugh for about 7 hours in order to burn off an average sized jelly filled donut.
Laughter is contagious forming social bonds with those around us. Not only is your laughter ‘healthful’ to you, but it is also to those around you.
Increase The Amount of Laughter in Your Life
- Read the comics
- Consider a ‘laughter yoga’ class. Yes, there is such a thing!
- Have a game night, play charades and other laughter games
- Share a joke every day with your friends, family and coworkers
- Take your friends to a karaoke night
- Watch your favorite funny TV show or movie
- Learn to laugh at yourself
So, turn off that dreadful news and turn on a rerun of I Love Lucy!!
Live Long, Live Healthy! …and laugh often
Dr. Julie Wood is a Nurse Practitioner and has been serving the Middle Tennessee area for more than 30 years, specializing in adults with obesity, prediabetes and diabetes. Office is located at 401 First Avenue, Mt. Pleasant, TN and statewide with telehealth. Dr. Wood can be reached at 931-325-5560, www.diabetesmgtassociates.com, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Articles are meant to be informative and should never replace the advice of your health care provider.