We’ve all heard the saying that laughter is the best medicine but what we may not be sure of is the science behind it. When we hear such a saying we tend to think that whoever has said it is just trying to make us feel better, but as it turns out, laughter has a positive and very real effect on our body.
Studies have shown that our body changes when we laugh, our immune system being just one part of us that benefits greatly from the action. Laughter increases our immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies meaning we are less at risk of disease, so making laughter a large part of each day could work wonders when it comes to repairing our body.
A good example of the healing power of laughter is the late Norman Cousins. Cousins long believed that our emotions were an integral part of a person’s ability to fight off illness and disease and after being diagnosed with a serve form or arthritis he put his beliefs into practise. By incorporating 10 minutes of genuine laughter into his day Cousins was able to relive the pain brought about by his condition for 2 hours. Each time the effects wore off, he would repeat the process. Using laughter alongside his recovery programme, Cousins lived years longer than his doctors predicted.
However, it’s not just physical healing or pain relief that laughter can improve; it also triggers the release of endorphins – the neuropeptides that induce happiness. Endorphins have a morphine-like effect on our body making us more relaxed and at ease. Because of the relaxing effect of laughter on our body, it also has the potential to protect against stress and other mental illnesses. Laughter has long been associated with improving our mental health not only because of the calming effect it has but also because it helps to shift our perspective. Because we are calmer, more relaxed and happier we are more open to considering different options. This brief moment of relief could be all we need to pull us out of stressful or depressed thinking, even if for a short while at first.
But the healing effects of laughter don’t stop there. It is thought that laughter can help connect us to people emotionally. Sharing a moment of laughter with someone bring us together and increases the intimacy we may feel towards them. Laughter feels good because it is natural to us and when we are in our natural state we find it much easier to create emotional bonds with others, making our relationships more enjoyable.
With so many positive side effects of laughter why not incorporate as much into your day as possible? Stick on your favourite comedy, call that friend who always has you in stiches or just spend some time thinking about funny memories. Your body will thank you for it!
Image Source: morguefile (diannehope)