I’m that friend that laughs harder than anyone else at a joke, and is still nearly falling out of my chair about the time everyone else is done laughing. Sure, it might be a bit awkward, but in my defense, my anxiety levels are generally about ready to hit the ceiling. Why shouldn’t I take full advantage of every laugh I can get?
Laughter lowers anxiety
There are times when I purposefully turn off the news and get on Youtube with a mission to find something funny. Why? I have high anxiety nearly all the time. I can count perhaps five times on my fingers that I’ve gone more than half an hour without feeling stress or anxiety of some sort, and sometimes, I just can’t take anymore bad news without having an anxiety attack. My brain needs another sort of stimulation.
Over the years, I’ve come to realize that sometimes, I have to stop uploading stressful information into my brain. I need a different “outlet,” so to speak with different information to upload.
Research has shown what my personal stress assessments have proven to me: laughter really does help reduce anxiety. How Stuff Works article, “How Laughter Works,” refers to laughter as a “safety valve.” The stress hormones that our minds produce lead us to the “fight or flight” state, which is good for short periods of time, but not for extended periods. Laughter shuts that hormone production down.
According to Discovery.com’s article, “10 Reasons Why Laughing is Good for You,” stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine are shut down during laughter. And in addition, remember when we discussed how exercising produces the neurotransmitters seratonin and dopamine that help reduce anxiety and boost feelings of happiness? Laughter helps produce these mood boosting neurochemicals as well! Which leads us to our next point….
Laughter produces some of the same effects as exercise
HPMC Occupational Medical Services says that not only is the heart exercised and the lungs emptied and filled with air while laughing, but in addition, muscles all over the body are used during laughter. How Stuff Works agrees, saying these areas are given a quick exercise during laughter:
- abdominal muscles
- respiratory muscles
- facial muscles
- leg muscles
- back muscles
This doesn’t mean we can exchange all of our exercise for laughter. WebMD’s article, “Give Your Body a Boost — With Laughter,” says that it would take 12 focused hours of laughter to burn off one pound of weight. Still, while laughing at the Sunday comics might not be the best weight-loss plan, those I doubt many of us will miss those little calories lost here and there when we laugh!
Laughter shows signs of boosting the immune system
Remember those stress hormones we shut down in our first point about laughter? Stress hormones can do more damage than we often consider. According to Mayo Clinic’s article, “Stress relief from laughter? It’s no joke,” those stress hormones can hurt our immune systems. Not only does laughter stop those stress hormones, but Mayo Clinic says laughter boosts production of neuropeptides, which help fight stress, and possibly even more serious diseases.
HPMC Occupational Medical Services list these illness fighters specifically as being boosted during laughter:
- Natural Killer Cells (responsible for identifying and removing visues and tumors)
- More awakened T-Cells (removing foreign substances)
- Higher ImmunoglobulinA (fights respiratory infections, colds, and the flu)
- Higher Gamma Interferon (switches the immune system “on”)
- Higher ImmunoglobulinG, ImmunoglobulinM, and Compliment 3, which help antibodies destroy defective cells
- Higher BCells, which help in producing Immunoglobulin
Again, while I wouldn’t replace all of my medications with the comedy recommendations from Netflix, it’s amazing how God made our bodies with natural built-in pharmecies. And to access those pharmecies, all we have to do it enjoy ourselves!
Laughter can produce pain relief
I was a bit skeptical when I read this one, but it’s on every professional site I’ve read! Mayo Clinic’s article, “Stress relief from laughter?” says the pain relief product of laughter might be due to two factors:
- Laughter produces natural pain killers.
- Laughter might break the muscle spasm cycle common to some disorders.
HPMC Occupational Medical Services also says that pain relief might be due to the distraction. You don’t notice pain quite as much when your attention is occupied in something pleasant. And while studies haven’t conclusively shown it to be so yet, both HPMC and Discovery.com both agree that the production of neurotransmitters might be responsible for an increase in endorphins, or natural painkillers.
So I don’t leave you hanging….
It’s clear that laughter has some great benefits for both physical and mental health. So when you have a crazy urge to turn off the news and hop on Youtube for some funny clips, your mind might be telling you something. And just to clarify, I’m not telling you to spend hours on Youtube…it might be a good to lighten the load of stress and plan a few minutes of doing whatever makes you laugh.
And just in case you aren’t sure where to start, here are some great places to find some laughter. I tried to find some clean places to get you started. Now your fun homework assignment is to run with them!
1. Tim Hawkins – Oh my goodness, possibly my favorite comedian EVER! Tim’s a Christian, but he has no problem getting Christians to laugh at some of our own quirks. I highly recommend setting aside at least 20 minutes when you get started on his videos. His spoofs are rather addicting….
2. I Could Chew on This – There’s a cat version of this (I Could Pee on This), and they’re both flippin’ amazing. Since I’m partial to dogs, I posted this one, but they’re both great. You could read this in one or two sit-downs, but they’re worth the trip to the library (or Barnes and Noble, if you must have what the library doesn’t).
3. Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Horribly, Hilariously Wrong – This is exactly as the description says…and it will leave you rasping for breath. It’s amazing how much ignorance and lack of pride can be squeezed onto one cake (or thousands, amazingly)…but it’s also delightfully funny.
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