Laughter is far more infectious than most diseases. When we hear someone laugh spontaneously and loudly, we can’t help but respond with a smile or a laugh ourselves. The saying “laughter is the best medicine” has been around for a long time, but is there any evidence to back up this assertion?
Laughter has the following positive effects on your physical health:
- Relaxation of skeletal muscles- your muscles relax for up to 45 minutes following a good, hearty laugh, relieving stress and tension.
- Strengthening of the immune system- stress hormones are decreased and immune cells are released in response to laughter, which can help you avoid infection and disease
- Release of endorphins- endorphins are the brain’s feel good chemicals that are released when we laugh, exercise and perform certain other functions. Endorphins are the same substances that allow runners to ignore pain while running and cause a feeling of exhilaration after a good workout.
- Relaxation of blood vessels- studies have shown that laughter can have a protective role in fighting heart disease. When we laugh, blood vessels relax, resulting in a lowering of blood pressure.
Laughter has a positive benefit on mental health as well. When we hear laughter, we also laugh or smile, which helps us to feel more positive. Laughter effectively removes negative feelings such as sadness and anger (it’s hard to feel sad or angry when you’re laughing out loud!).
Patch Adams is an American doctor who understands the value of laughter in medicine. Although his antics were sometimes underappreciated by his medical school instructors, his patient s benefitted enormously from his use of humor on the wards. A movie about his life was well received by the public, and his work received attention around the world. Patch Adams is a physician and also a clown, and he sees no great dichotomy between these roles.
We can never have too much laughter in our lives. That’s why we are often drawn to people who can make us laugh, why we love to see comedians, why children love the circus, and why we love to watch funny movies. We need to laugh, because it makes us feel good. Although many studies have shown that laughter plays a positive role in our health, we know innately that this is true even without the benefit of this knowledge.
Businesses are starting to realize that laughter is important to a healthy working environment. Some routinely schedule laughter sessions into their meetings, where an employee might be encouraged to share a joke or a humorous story, comic strips are shown on overheads or motivational speakers are invited to attend. Workers who laugh together bond together and strengthening workplace relationships can have a positive effect on the company’s bottom line.
Laughter is truly the world’s best medicine. It has the power to strengthen us physically and mentally. Laughter makes us glad to be alive; no other medicine has quite the same potent effect.