Most people would agree that laughter is good for you in every possible way. Scientific research on laughter suggests that there are many exceptional benefits to a good sense of humor and a good laugh. The old expression, “laughter is the best medicine”, is not just a cliché, but has real scientific merit.
What happens when we laugh?
Our physiology changes:
Our blood pressure and pulse immediately go up but then come down to a lower level than before. The more often you laugh the more likely your pulse and blood pressure will improve.
Our breathing is improved. Laughter causes us to breathe deeper than before, sending more oxygen into the bloodstream and nutrients throughout our system. Most of us breathe with shallow breaths and need to deepen those breaths frequently to maximize the benefits of oxygenation.
Production of our stress hormones decreases and our immune system is therefore better able to defend against disease.
There is a system wide increase in protein molecules or disease fighting antibodies. Researchers are now studying the positive effect laughter may have on production of these antibodies as they relate to fighting cancer.
People with a good sense of humor who laugh every day are more likely to have healthier hearts. A study by the University of Maryland found that people with heart disease had been 40% less likely to laugh or smile in general. The researchers concluded that laughing is likely to protect the heart.
Laughter helps oxygenate the blood and improve brain functioning. Some studies have shown that after laughing subjects show some improvement in their ability to grasp learning new material, suggesting improvement in the learning centers of the brain.
What are some of the other benefits?
Humor and laughter can help to diffuse anger. Most tense situations can be softened by injecting some humor at the right time.
Humor relieves stress and can help a person develop a better perspective. It is often far better to appreciate the more comical side of things than the serious side.
Humor brings people together and makes for a more relaxed atmosphere. Everyone enjoys being entertained and laughing is very entertaining (and contagious).
Developing a sense of humor can stave off depression by replacing negative feelings with pleasurable emotions.
Humor seems to boost our energy level. When we laugh and have fun we are apt to engage in more activities.
Humor “breaks the ice” and can help people get to know each other more easily. When meeting someone for the first time it is always better to share a laugh than a complaint.
How to develop a sense of humor.
Try becoming friendlier: Everyday make it a goal to engage a stranger (or friend or family member) with a “good morning”, “how are you?” or a “you look great today”. Making small positive connections with others lifts the spirits and creates an atmosphere for humor to develop..
Smile often: Whenever you make eye contact with someone smile at them. It is a small pleasantry that helps to keep morale and spirits high.
Learn to laugh everyday: Listen to your favorite comedian, associate with people who enjoy humor, try to view things from a humorous perspective and simply “lighten up”!
Don’t take yourself too seriously: Notice the silly things you do, notice how vain you are, notice how many things are really not that important and notice whether or not you are a little too uptight for your own good and then begin to poke some fun at yourself.
Try saying something funny: Once you have noticed some of the more comical things in your world, try pointing them out to friends. Consider engaging in more humor laden conversations, even about the economy (although that may be a stretch for an amateur), politics or any subject you like.
Having a sense of humor is essential for enjoying your life. It will help relieve stress, enhance your relationships and it may even extend your life. If you already have a sense of humor, use it as often as possible. If you don’t, then develop one as soon as possible.