Day 28 – Emotional/Physical
- “We love to laugh
- Loud and long and clear
- We love to laugh
- So ev’rybody can hear
- The more you laugh
- The more you fill with glee
- And the more the glee
- The more we’re a merrier we
- The more I’m a merrier me!”
They’re popular lyrics from the beloved children’s classic, Mary Poppins. But is there truth behind this silly song? We may not be floating around the ceiling as Uncle Albert does in this particular scene, but there are several reasons why laughing makes our spirits go sky high.
We’ve all experienced a down moment or day when laughter has lightened our mood. However, “getting your guffaw on” does more than just provide temporary comic relief. A recent study completed with 60 and 70 year olds, evaluated humor’s effect on both stress and short-term memory. One group was asked to sit silently without reading, talking or using their cell phones. The other group watched funny videos. After 20 minutes, saliva samples were taken from both groups before giving a short memory test.
Those that viewed funny videos not only had lower cortisol (the stress hormone) but they were more than twice as likely (43.6%) to recall correctly compared to the group that sat silently (20.3%).
What exactly happens when we laugh? Once passing your ears, that punch line ignites the centers in the brain for higher thought, muscle function and emotion. Facial muscles suddenly begin to spontaneously contract. Your diaphragm and chest muscles tighten, forcing air out of your lungs with a big “whoosh” while your vocal cords vibrate to emit short “ha ha has”. The sudden exit of air from the lungs increases your heart rate and blood pressure, as oxygen is sent to your organs. If it’s really funny (or just about every time if your name is Michael Mansfield) your eyes may start to water. Aside from your face and stomach muscles, the rest of your body becomes weaker and more relaxed. Hormonally, endorphins are released— the same ones released when exercising— providing an over all lowering in the body’s stress response. This comedic chain reaction is shown to be contagious as well. This uncontrollable spread of snickers is thought to be an early bonding mechanism, meaning those you laugh with, you’re more likely to share a deeper emotional connection. An entire physiological reaction automatically activated with one wisecrack— no wonder that giggle feels so good!
“Laughter is the best medicine”— is it possibly more than a common phrase? We’ve already learned the short-term benefits of laughter, including organ stimulation, improved short-term memory and a reduction in stress response and tension (which can last for up to 45 minutes after the funny has finished, by the way). But if you thought a short chuckle was no more than a quick pick-me-up, you’ll want to stock up on your comics, because laughter has some remarkable long-term benefits as well.
Improved Immune System
In a 2006 research study at Loma Linda University in Califormia, it was found that two hormones—beta-endorphins (which alleviate depression) and human growth hormone (HGH, which helps with immunity) increased by 27 and 87 percent respectively when volunteers anticipated watching a funny video. Simply thinking about the chance to chuckle, boosted health-protecting hormones and chemicals! In a separate study at Arkansas Tech University, 21 fifth graders participated in a humor program resulting in a rise in immunoglobin levels increasing their ability to fight viruses and foreign cells.
If you’ve seen the movie Patch Adams, the story of a doctor with a passion for making children with chronic disease chuckle, you may wonder about the science behind such antics. Wonder no more. The credit goes again to endorphins that produce a natural “high”— similar to the effect of the drug heroin—with pain-killing and euphoria-producing effects. At Natchaug Hospital in Mansfield Center, Connecticut, post-surgical patients were told one-liners prior to administration of potentially painful medication. The patients exposed to humor perceived less pain as compared to patients who didn’t receive humor stimuli. This pain was also found to be dose-related in another study— meaning the more laughter, the less pain later. These studies are no joke and “laughter rooms” are popping up in hospitals across the country.
Today you’ve got the green light to laugh it up— but don’t do it alone— include your lover in the hilarity. According to DailyMail, laughing together is an essential ingredient for couple happiness. Couples who were married for a minimum of 45 years reported “a sense of humor” to be among the top three reasons behind their relationship success— so the greatest benefit of a good belly laugh may just be in its ability to bind two people together. Go ahead and “bahaha” and “LOL”— funny has never felt so good!
Look up the top 10 best “I Love Lucy” episodes, tell Laffy Taffy jokes, find some Family Circus comics or simply sit nose-to-nose making silly faces to see who can go the longest without breaking into snorts and snickers.
If you’re looking for some comedic inspiration, I’m sharing with you my favorite bit by the beloved comedian, Brian Reagan. This spot on going to the emergency room shows there is humor to be had in just about any situation!