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Laughter Medicine in Challenging Times

by Oasis Wellness Partners on April 6, 2020       Laughter Medicine in Challenging Times

Laughter is one of the best tools we have for dealing with stress, and science backs this claim up. In fact, research into laughter goes even further, revealing that laughter in the body is a powerful drug that conveys a number of advantages for the mind and body. During this diifcult time, we need this kind of medicine more than ever. Check out all the ways that laughter can benefit your health!

Laughter is a potent endorphin releaser. One of the most recent studies on laughter shows that laughing releases endorphins in the brain—our homegrown feel-good chemicals—via opioid receptors. The more opioid receptors a given person has in their brain, the more powerful the effect. That is why after having some good, deep belly laughs, you can feel a sense of euphoria.

Laughter forms bonds. “The endorphin effect described above also explains why social laughter is so contagious. Each brain in a social unit is a transmitter of those feelings, which triggers the feel-goods in other brains via laughter. It’s like a game of endorphin dominoes.”[1] That’s why when you hear or see someone laughing, others will laugh even if they’re not sure what the laughter is about! So watch something funny with your family, or download the House Party app and watch some funny shows with your friends (via technology) and share the laughs together.

Laughter is crucial in relationships. A study showed that women laughed about 126% more than their male counterparts, while men seem to instigate laughter the most. Related to this, women tend to rate a sense of humor as a top trait for a potential mate, whereas men tend to rate women who laugh a lot (i.e. laugh at their jokes) higher than those who don’t. It’s no surprise, then, that couples who laugh together report having higher-quality relationships. In other words, laughter can be a key component to a lasting, happy marriage.

Laughter can be similar to an antidepressants. Laughing activates the release of the neurotransmitter serotonin, the same brain chemical affected by the most common types of antidepressants, SSRIs. It’s not clear from the research how long this effect sticks around, but the burst of brain activity laughing triggers is clearly a potent one.

Laughter protects the heart. Research has shown that “laughter has an anti-inflammatory effect that protects blood vessels and heart muscles from the damaging effects of cardiovascular disease. How this happens isn’t entirely understood, but it seems related to lessening the body’s stress response, which is directly linked to increased inflammation.”[2] Wouldn’t it be great if regular, hearty laughter was part of every heart disease prevention program?

Most importantly, laughter boosts immunity. When you laugh, the diaphragm becomes a powerful pump for your lymphatic circulation, much like your heart serves as the central pump that propels blood through your blood vessels. This assists the lymphatic vessels in carrying this fluid through your body and helps your lymph nodes to clean and filter this fluid, removing waste products, dead cells, and even unwanted microorganisms. Maintaining clean body fluids is important because these are necessary for you to be at your best. Increased lymphatic flow = an elevated, improved immune system just by the simple nature of more lymph flowing through the nodes, thus producing more lymphocytes, antibodies and boosting that immunity![3]

So how to go about getting that feel-good, health improving, immune boosting laughter? Think like a child! Read funny books, cartoons, watch funny movies or shows, engage in silly games with your family (Pictionary and charades are always goofy), tickling someone or being tickled, making time to talk to your best friend who always makes you laugh—these things are good for your health! Prioritize laughter—your body will thank you.

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