Has a doctor ever given you a prescription for laughter? If so, don’t consider it a joke. It’s a downright truth that being cheerful has healing powers. “A cheerful heart is good medicine,” it says in the Bible in Proverbs 17:22. Doctors today confirm that the proverb is true. Laughter really does do wonders, including providing many health benefits. There are countless ways to have a cheerful heart, such as being a resident at Discovery Village. But however you find your joy, go for it, to enjoy a better quality of life.
Laugh Therapy, Anyone?
Researchers and doctors have become so strongly convinced of the medicinal value of laughter that there are actually laugh therapists. Steve Wilson, MA, CSP, who is also a psychologist, is a laugh therapist. He is convinced that people are far better off if they can incorporate more laughter into their lives.
What’s so great about laughter is that there is no discrimination. Anyone, no matter their physical, emotional, or mental condition, is capable of laughter and the benefits it provides. A positive mental attitude, a good sense of humor, and support from friends and loved ones could play a part in the level of openness to laughter that an individual may have. A good attitude can be developed, and an effort applied to that end will be worth it.
What Happens When we Laugh?
There is a science behind laughter being medicine. Just about your entire body responds to laughter, with healthful results.
- When you hear something funny, the brain responds by igniting centers for higher emotion, muscle function, and thought. Spontaneously, muscles around your cheeks and eyes contract. The brain also signals the brain stem, which controls breathing and laughter.
- When you laugh, your chest muscles and diaphragm tighten and force air from your lungs. When the air whooshes through your windpipe, blowing over your larynx, your vocal cords emit sounds of laughter.
- When you really get tickled, your eyes water.
- Although facial muscles and core muscles tense during laughter, your other muscles weaken and lose coordination, which is why it can be difficult to walk in a straight line when laughing.
- An urgent call for oxygen is created by the air rushing from your lungs. As a result, blood pressure and heart rate both increase, to carry more O2 to the body’s organs.
- You may burn a few calories from laughter because of how hard the obliques work to expel air.
- Perhaps most importantly, a good belly laugh releases endorphins, which are the body’s natural opiates that are also released during rigorous exercise. Endorphins trigger a positive feeling throughout the body and are comparable to the effects of the powerful pain killer morphine but without the risk of an unhealthy addiction. The experience is all natural.
- Production of the stress hormone cortisol, which is associated with depression and exhaustion, can be reduced through hearty laughter.
- Your entire body is relaxed by a good laugh because it relieves stress and physical tension. For up to 45 minutes after laughing, your muscles are relaxed.
Just like you can benefit from exercise, you can benefit from laughter. However, making merry is a whole lot more fun. Besides what specifically happens in the body, there are also specific health benefits of laughter, including the following:
- Whereas stress negatively impacts the immune system, humor can strengthen the body’s infection-fighting antibodies and also boost immune cell levels.
- Research on the effects of laughter has been done extensively with patients suffering from extraordinary levels of pain. It has been discovered, for example, that ten minutes of laughter can result in two pain-free hours of sleep for patients with a painful spine condition called ankylosing spondylitis.
- Laughter activates T cells, which are specialized immune system cells. Fighting off sickness is a direct result of laughing, because of T cells.
- You don’t have to go for a jog to get a cardio workout. Having a good laugh can achieve the same end. Because of the way your heart gets to pumping when you laugh, you burn calories and strengthen your heart through laughter.
- You can even tone your abs through laughter. When you laugh, the muscles in your stomach move in a way similar to exercise – they expand and contract. Another benefit is that the muscles not used for laughing get to relax.
Don’t be discouraged if you have an overly discerning sense of humor. In this continuing series written especially for residents at Discovery Village, you can learn various ways to develop a more jolly sense of humor.
Discovery Village At Twin Creeks offers a variety of senior living programs to keep seniors healthy and active. Learn about our senior living options and amenities today when you contact us at 972.440.1218.