Laughter indeed is a medicine for all. Its health benefits include reducing the release of stress hormones, improving moods and many more. You! takes a look...
Laughter positively affects all aspects of being. Studies show that it is a legitimate and powerful form of preventive lifestyle medicine, and a complementary option to other established therapeutic strategies for physiological, mental, and emotional health. This week, You! shares some of the benefits of laughter that will make you laugh more life. Read on...
Reduces stress hormones
Laughter reduces the level of stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline), dopamine, and growth hormone. Laughter increases the number of antibody-producing cells we have working for us and enhances the effectiveness of T cells. All this means a stronger immune system, as well as fewer physical effects of stress.
Increases health-enhancing hormones
On the positive side of hormonal impact, laughter can also increase the number of beneficial hormones like endorphins and neurotransmitters in the body. By increasing the levels of endorphins in the body, studies have shown that a subject’s threshold for pain is increased, making laughter a painkiller of sorts. Endorphins attach to the same receptors in our brain as opiates, making the release of endorphins like a drug experience without the negative side effects, along with easing mood, tension, anger, and pain. An increase in neurotransmitters means that your brain is able to function faster, make connections more rapidly, and comprehend situations and problems at a higher rate.
Boosts immune system
Laughter can even go so far as to help you stay healthy. It has been widely studied that laughter can stimulate antibody cells to develop at faster rates by changing the body’s chemistry through hormonal shifts. This increase in antibodies means that the body is able to fight off illness and infection easier. T-Cells are a type of white blood cells known as lymphocytes. Studies have shown that the efficiency of T-cells is actually increased in a subject who regularly laughs and adds those hormonal advantages to their overall system.
Aside from the internal benefits of laughter, it can also be a natural way to exercise various muscle groups in your body. When you engage in laughter, whether it is a giggle or a guffaw, muscles are used to create that movement. The old adage that it “takes more muscles to frown than to smile” is somewhat true, unless you are laughing while smiling. Laughter engages the body’s diaphragm and abdominal muscle systems during that repetitive expanding and contracting that often happens when laughing for an extended period of time. This is why our sides or stomach hurt slightly after long bouts of laughter.
The facial muscles are also exercised, the same as they would be when singing or enunciating strongly. Depending on your laughing style, and how physically engaged you become, you can work out your legs, back, shoulders, and arm muscles as well.
Laughter has also been shown to fight against cancer by increasing the levels of IFN (Interferon-gamma) in the body. IFN stimulates the B-cells, T-cells, NK cells, and immunoglobulin, and it also works to regulate cell growth. These compounds are integral to a healthy immune system, but they are also the lines of defence against cancer and the abnormal growth of dangerous tumours in the body. Laughing every day can keep all sorts of doctors away!
Regulates blood pressure
For anyone with high blood pressure, try to laugh more and watch your blood pressure decrease. Studies have shown that “mirthful laughter” causes an initial increase in arterial blood pressure due to the physical act of laughing, but that rise is followed by a decrease to below the normal resting blood pressure. This is further proof that laughter does indeed improve circulation and can reduce blood pressure, which is one of the major causes of heart disease and cardiac issues for many people.
Increases blood oxygenation
The process of laughter causes us to use our respiratory system very quickly and strenuously for a short amount of time. This intense activity stimulates an increase in the blood flow as the heart rate increases temporarily, thus increasing the amount of oxygen flowing to the brain. Increased oxygen levels in the brain promote healthier brain function, as oxygen is integral to brain health. Additionally, pulmonary activity gets a boost from laughter as well, because there is a higher level of ventilation of the lungs during robust episodes of “mirthful laughter”
Along with the improved brain function that laughter can provide, it can also work to improve memory in a different way. The connections and associations that the brain forms while “learning” can be widened and made more complex by combining basic learning with an emotional response like laughter or humour. By varying the levels of association with different parts of our brain (pleasure, amusement, logic, reason, etc.) remembering facts and recalling details is easier because there are more linkages present in our memory.
Studies have shown that the simple act of laughing or smiling can improve the mood and happiness levels in subjects versus other activities. Laughter has been found to have an analgesic quality that reduces even unconscious pain, causing an improvement in mood. Even forced laughter, without a normally humorous stimulus, works to improve mood. Therefore, even if you don’t have anything funny to laugh about, it will probably put you in a better mood just to participate in the physical act of laughter. Your brain does not actually register whether the stimulus is genuine or not, since people often find unusual things funny, or laughing at inappropriate times. Research suggests that good mood may lead to a greater preference for healthy foods over junk food.
Laughter has a large number of effects on the chemical processes in the body, and the combination of reduced stress hormones, increased endorphins, and increased oxygenation to the blood and brain caused an increase in creativity in test subjects who laugh often. By improving overall brain health and bolstering its natural support system, both hemispheres can work together more efficiently so creativity has a place to foster and grow.