What' so funny? When it comes to the effects a full belly laugh can have on the mind, spirit and BODY, you'll want to make sure you find out.
Laughter just may be the best medicine. For a number of years, researchers have been exploring the physical effects of laughter. It is no secret that when we are laughing we are experiencing a happy moment, which obviously makes us feel better emotionally and psychologically, but what is interesting is the physical effects that a good crack up can have. The belief that laughter has a therapeutic effect on stress, disease and the immune system no longer raises medical eyebrows.
In the same way that stress can take its toll on the body, laughter can potentially heal. The effects vary from person to person, but even when the effect is minimal it is still a positive one.
Norman Cousins, the late editor of The Saturday Review, suffered from a severe connective tissue disease. When it seemed as though there was nothing else doctors could do for him, he began his own therapy. He took large does of Vitamin C and watched re-runs of Candid Camera and The Marx Brothers movies. He chronicled his self-healing through laughter in his book, Anatomy of an Illness. - "I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep." - Cousins recovered from his condition and spent twenty years teaching about the healing power of laughter.
When we are laughing the body lowers the levels of the hormones that might suppress the immune system. It is also believed that a hardy laugh promotes the production of catecholamines, the hormone that is thought to cause the brain to release endorphins, the same that is released during exercise. Endorphins are also the body's natural painkillers; the release can reduce the frequency or intensity of arthritis and gives the body a general feeling of well-being.
William Fry a professor @ Stanford university says-100 laughs is the equivalent to 10 minutes on the rowing machine. He compared the heart rate of his study subjects during laughter with his own during exercise.
Laughter is known to relive stress, a common cause of heart and blood pressure problems. It also improves lung capacity and oxygen in the blood and is said to help with insomnia, migraines, allergies and ulcers. Many studies indicated that people who laugh a lot live longer.
All in all, as human beings we love to laugh, we need to laugh. And considering that it can have a positive effect on not only the heart and soul, but also the body, makes it that much more important that laughter be a part of our daily lives. It is highly recommended after reading this that you make a point to have a good laugh. Rent your favorite comedy, play a game with someone or call a friend and ask him to tell you about the one "when the two guys go into the bar …"
In 2003, may the laughs be with you!
© Melt Magazine 2003