My last post on this blog was about communication, the bedrock of all human relationships and a necessity for survival. Reading around this subject led me into the physical, mental and social benefits of laughter.
We all know that smiling is the beginning of laughter and like laughter, it is contagious. Many times, we have been advised to love simply, laugh often and love deeply. The cliché of “laughter is the best medicine”, could be said to be as old as civilization. I was even reluctant to include it in this post but then I remembered one proverb in King Solomon’s Book of Proverbs: Proverb 17 verse 22 : “Being cheerful keeps you healthy. It is slow death to be gloomy all the time.”
A genuine smile is a facial expression conveying one’s deep feelings. The smile is expressed more with the mouth other than the eyes. The Americans are good at displaying their emotions and to them the smile expresses happiness and respect. The Japanese are not very open with their emotions so in a smile, they focus more on the look in the eyes other than the mouth. The Germans do not show their emotions often so they smile less often. In my country, Uganda, a smile expresses warmth and in my local area, the central region, we can laugh out loud with family and friends until we cry. The over 600 years old royal dynasty of Buganda in Uganda, has always had singers, drummers and comedians at the royal court to entertain people and make them laugh. World-wide, a good belly laugh makes each one of us feel good.
Since 1995, the unfatiguable Dr. Madan Kataria of Mumbai, India, a country where people laugh until they hurt, has been advocating for laughing for health and happiness. He has become the world’s Laughter Yoga Teacher. He is the founder of the laughter Yoga Clubs in over sixty countries. He arranged for the first World Laughter Day in 1998 to increase awareness about laughter and its health benefits. Since then, the first Sunday in May, people gather in public places just to share laughter.
Dr. Kataria is popularly known as the “Guru of Giggling”. As a medical doctor, he explains that a good belly laugh expels air from the lungs allowing them to take in more fresh air. The oxygen in the fresh air is made available to the cells in the body to convert biochemical energy from nutrients: sugar, amino acids, fatty acids .This energy is then used by the cells to run the essential cellular activities or processes.
Studies have proved how laughter improves our health and happiness.
- It improves cardiac health by increasing the blood flow to the heart, lowers the Blood pressure and this reduces the risk of stroke and heart attacks.
- It reduces the stress hormone levels thus reducing anxiety and stress on the body. Stress and anxiety have adverse effects on the body.
- It tones the abdominal muscles that are used in a loud laugh.
- It boosts the body’s immune system. The T-cells, the specialized cells of the immune system are activated by laughter. This improves the body’s resistance to disease and cancer.
- It triggers the release of the endorphin hormones one of the “feel good/happy chemicals” from the brain. Endorphins improve one’s mood; adding joy and zest to life.
Endorphins are natural pain killers that temporarily relieve chronic pain, leaving you feel better.
The relief of physical tension and stress which leaves your muscles relaxed, goes on for up to 45 minutes after.
Human beings are programmed to be social creatures and laughter has been proved to have some social benefits.
Laughter connects us to other people- it attracts other people to us.
It helps to diffuse difficult situations.
It promotes group bonding.
In intimate relationships, sharing laughter strengthens the relationship and keeps it fresh and lasting.
Over the years, I have learned not to take life so seriously. I laugh at myself and at life itself.
I make a conscious effort to laugh several times during the day. After a long day I put up my feet and watch Just for Laughs: Gags or a good comedy on the television and by the time it ends, I am enjoying a happy high.
I intentionally spend time with fun-filled, playful people like children and old friends. With such people, I find myself more relaxed, more positive and joyful.
I never forget to find my inner child- I claim the spontaneity and the ability to laugh at ordinary things.
I spend 10-15 minutes in a day, doing something that I love and that makes me laugh; like reading a funny story.
Sometimes I just decide to do something silly like making funny facial expressions in a mirror or mimicking funny voices in my past. In such situations, I focus on having fun.
And in a group I allow myself to be drawn to where the laughter is.
Sometimes all I need to do to make myself laugh is to remember a few funny experiences in my life.
Strangely, as I enjoy a happy high, I find myself admitting that Laughter is the best medicine. It is also free, can be self-administered safely and can also save you time and money at the doctor’s. It adds years to one’s life.
“Trouble knocked at the door, but hearing laughter, hurried away.” – Benjamin Franklin
Simply find opportunities to have a hearty laugh every day.
How often do you give yourself permission to play for fun and to laugh out loud every day?