Laughter Is a Serious Matter

Laughter Is a Serious Matter
April 2, 2020 AVMA LIFE
Laughter Is a Serious Matter

Laughter Is a Serious Matter

When was the last time you laughed? I mean, really laughed?

Was it a giggle, chortle, guffaw… or maybe even a snort? How did it make you feel afterward?

If you can’t remember laughing or how it felt, take a laugh break now. Go on, we’ll wait. We’re serious. Just laugh. Take a moment to find something funny, then give it a go.

Life can be difficult at times (especially for veterinarians), and laughter can help you ride the waves. So, pretend if you must, but don’t neglect laughter. It’s a critical part of life, and we’re about to tell you why.

Appreciate Your Inner Pharmacy

“Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine.”—Lord Byron

You’ve probably heard that laughter is good medicine, but you may not be aware of its many documented benefits. It’s free and convenient… and there’s no such thing as an overdose.

Laughter can be enjoyed whether you’re alone or in a crowd. It’s a powerful healer that’s easily accessed, providing benefits that touch the mind, body, and spirit. Let’s look at how it makes a difference:

  • Socially: Laughter brings people together and helps establish amazing connections. Have you ever seen something funny and started to laugh, only to have others join you for no reason? Just watch a baby giggle, and you might laugh, too! That’s because laughter can be contagious. It tears down walls. Science shows that it’s good for relationships—those who laugh together are also drawn closer together.
  • Physically: Your body loves laughter. Researchers at the Loma Linda University in California discovered that laughing:
    • Lowers blood pressure, reducing the risk of stroke and heart attack
    • Reduces stress hormones, minimizing anxiety and its effects on the body
    • Works muscles in your stomach (yep, the belly laugh) and helps other muscles relax
    • Provides a cardio workout, burning calories and getting the heart to pump (similar to walking at a slow to moderate pace)
    • Boosts the immune system, activating T-cells that help your body fight off sickness
    • Triggers endorphins, releasing the body’s natural painkillers to help ease chronic pain
    • Fights memory loss, helps improve focus, and increases creativity
  • Emotionally: Laughter can help produce a positive outlook on life and a general sense of well-being. There are both short- and long-term effects, with countless studies verifying its benefits. Laughter is truly a wonder drug. Laughter provides a release for anger, helps lighten burdens, and makes situations appear brighter.

Did you know laughter can be a cure for many illnesses, too? Just think about that! Norman Cousins talked about it in “Anatomy of an Illness,” and Patch Adams used intentional humor as a healing modality in hospitals. Many even think humor can be used as an alternative medicine.

Develop Your Humor Muscles

“Laughter is an instant vacation.” —Milton Berle

One study says healthy children may laugh as much as 400 times per day, and adults tend to laugh only 15 minutes per day. So, what do you do if you’re low on laughter? Where’s a laughter supplement when you need one?

The good news is humor can be learned. It’s possible to develop your sense of humor so that you can take advantage of its many benefits whether you feel like something is funny or not… because your body reacts as if you’d laughed!

So, just “fake it ’til you make it” because, like smiling, the positive effects are the same—your body doesn’t distinguish the difference. And, no, you don’t really have humor muscles, but who couldn’t use a mental vacation (even if it’s only a momentary one)?!

So, turn up the corners of your mouth and force a laugh, and see how it makes you feel.

Need some other ideas?

Take Humor Seriously

“Laughter is the most inexpensive and most effective wonder drug. Laughter is a universal medicine.” –Bertrand Russell

A sense of humor affects so many aspects of our health and well-being. There’s even a science devoted to laughter and its effects on the body. Some experts say it can help you live longer.

In “How Humor Can Save the World,” Karyn Buxman says if humor were bottled, it would need FDA approval. It’s much more powerful than most of us realize and can even change us on a cellular level.

There’s no doubt we all need a little laughter to remain healthy socially, physically, emotionally, and mentally. So, whether you enjoy a comic or a laughing lion… or something entirely different, find what you like, take time to laugh, and enjoy life more. It can change—and even add years to—your life.

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