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Laughter is the Best Medicine

Laughter SideStix

Hearing or seeing laughter brightens my day.

Life is good, but it also has its twists and turns. So, I’m going to share one key way I cope.

Laughter.

Whether you’re stressed out, or not, the health benefits of laughter are amazing. Researchers are finding that a good belly laugh is one of the best health treatments you can get (right in there with acupuncture and meditation!).

Intuitively, we have known this all along – poets, writers and even monks have espoused this theory for eons. After all, one of the most important Metta (meaning loving-kindness) chants starts with the mantra, “May I be Happy”.

Norman Cousins, really made a breakthrough when he literally laughed his way to health after being diagnosed with a serious illness. In his 1979 book, ‘Anatomy of an Illness’ (also made into a motion picture), Norman describes that he knew laughter made him feel better. He surrounded himself with the ‘funny’ and took charge of his own health modalities. These changes made all the difference for him.

Concrete medical evidence supports the theory that laughing out-loud can elicit neurotransmitters which are extremely beneficial for your health. In fact, neuropsychologist, Dr. Bellance, author of ‘A Better High’ is also stand-up comedian. Maybe it’s his way of proving the point.

Laughter can help make you healthy.

A good laugh* and sense of humour can:

  • Stimulate your heart, lungs, and muscles; increase your circulatory system and produce neuro-receptors to the brain helping to make you feel better and more relaxed.
  • Neuro-receptors produced by laughter:
    • Dopamine helps process emotional responses and allows you to experience pleasure.
    • Serotonin buoy our mood and enables the body to fight stress and potential illnesses.
    • Endorphins reduce pain, depression, and anxiety.

 

Hey, funny guy!

You’re not funny, you say?

There are ways to develop your sense of humour:

  • Exaggerate the extremes in a situation. This can help you see just how ridiculously frustrating or ironic the situation can be. Comedy does this in storytelling with incongruities and dashed expectations. The listener is forced to resolve the incongruities and discover (with the right timing delivered by the storyteller) if it’s funny, or not. Remember Mounty Python and the Holy Grail scene, “Its just a flesh wound!”.
  • Imagine your life as a sitcom can help you find the humour in the situation. Its called ‘reframing’ and it works for me using the ‘I Love Lucy’ TV sitcom… for those times when I just can’t get anything right!
  • Collect the ‘funny’ and put it on your radar. Start gathering jokes, cards, pictures, books, TV sitcoms, and movies that make you laugh. Invite friends over for a board game. Just the act of smiling or hearing a joke increases your neurotransmitters, and that makes you feel happier.
  • Laughing Yoga is growing. When I first tried this with Jay Gupta, I was skeptical. It felt ridiculous to just laugh out-loud with others for no reason. But the yogis have been doing this for centuries, so something must be working. After participating several times with Jay’s class, I have always ended each session laughing my head off.
  • Funny friends are key to being happy, especially those who bring out the funny in you. I find my family can be hilarious, especially my husband and twin sister. But, do remember, laughing at the expense of others is NOT FUNNY.
* research/resources via Harvard and the Mayo Clinic.

So, with new scientific evidence backing up laughter as a complimentary health treatment, shouldn’t health insurance cover it? I can’t help but chuckle, as I imagine myself submitting a comedy show receipt for medical reimbursement. That thought really does put a smile on my face.

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