At some point or another, everyone’s heard that “laughter is the best medicine.” Many people view this as a metaphor – laughter means you’re staying positive, and positivity has a beneficial effect on health. Others take the saying literally and seek to show that the act of laughing actually creates physical reactions that promote health. The reality is a combination of both.
First, let’s discuss the psychological effects of laughter. The idea that laughter positively affects health because it’s a sign of a positive attitude is an accurate one. As we’ve discussed previously in our posts about compassion and gratitude, studies clearly indicate that our attitude can have a direct impact on our health. Never underestimate the power of brain chemistry and our ability to direct our own minds. While we may not always be able to surmount a chemical mood or brain imbalance on our own, we do have some control over the way we feel and how we choose to see the world. With the help of natural anti-depressants and other organic mood balancing elements, our bodies can find their balance again.
Once we have our depression or anxiety issues under control, we can begin forging new paths in our minds to help us maintain our positivity. Laughter is one of the best ways to accomplish this. Psychologically speaking, humor speaks to us by accessing the part of our brain that deals with and processes the unexpected. Jokes are funny because they take information we already know and turn it on its head in unexpected ways. Once our brain catches up and “gets” the joke, the emotional sector causes us to react with amusement or laughter. This causes a chain reaction of other feelings – relief, relaxation, pleasure, and happiness. It’s a direct link to all the places in our brain that affect mood.
We already know from previous posts that mood impacts health in a number of ways. The actual act of laughter is special, however. It’s a physical activity that affects our organs and body as a whole, and even burns calories! Fifty calories per hour, which is very minimal, but still. More importantly, it increases blood flow, improves relaxation, lowers blood sugar, decreases pain, and bolsters the immune system. It dissipates feelings of anger and can improve the quality of your sleep, as well.
Between this and reduced stress, you can see why laughter truly is one of the best medicines. Do yourself a favor and laugh a little (or a lot) every day!