Families, communities, and nations are strengthened with joyful laughter. Laughter brings positive and happy feelings and helps us to connect with each other. Laughter improves our health physically and mentally as well as emotionally.
There is an old saying, "Laugh and the world laughs with you; cry and you cry alone." Another old saying is, "Laughter is the best medicine." In a day when common sense ruled the world - in the days of our parents and grandparents - these sayings made a lot of sense. Now science is supporting them. In AlaskaCare Health Plans, May 2012, Vol. 14. No. 3, there was an article entitled "Health Benefits of Laughter," which brought out the following five points about laughter and health.
1. Laughter improves our immune system. "Laughter provides a boost to the key functions of a healthy immune system - specifically, an increase in T-cells and B-cells - and activates antibodies such as immunoglobulin A (IgA). These cells and antibodies are responsible for the early recognition and removal of virus and tumor cells, and protect us from upper respiratory infections, colds, and the flu."
2. Laughter aids in reducing stress by reducing the levels of "stress" hormones. "The stress hormones of cortisol, epinephrine, dopac and growth hormone are known to suppress the immune system, weakening one's bodily defense against disease and illness. Laughter has been shown to reduce these hormones, acting as an antidote to stress!"
3. Laughter strengthens our tolerance for pain. "Studies have consistently shown that humor carries a pain-reducing power. One possible reason is distraction, with laughter drawing attention away from the source of discomfort. It has been noted that with humor there is a reduction of muscle tension, and this muscular relaxation aids in pain management similar to the effect that meditation or other relaxation techniques have."
4. Laughter improves memory and increases creativity. "Neuroscientists refer to the brain's `humor muscles' in reference to understanding a joke, as humor appears to be a whole-brain networking process. Brain scans have shown increased blood flow to the brain regions where humor is processed and when laughter occurs.
"The language center on the left side of the brain hears the joke, makes sense of the words and then sends the message across to the right side of the brain. The right frontal cortex of the brain then searches for areas of stored emotions and social memories, makes a connection, interprets it, perceives the joke as humorous and finally, displays the reaction as laughter. Other positive brain effects associated with the processing of humor are increased memory, an enhanced ability to learn and greater creativity skills."
5. Laughter increases our aerobic exercise endurance. "It becomes an overall physical body exercise when one laughs. Although blood pressure and pulse will increase with laughing, they drop down lower than one's baseline afterwards, as they would with exercise. With laughter, the heart is exercised and the lungs emptied of more air, giving them a cleansing effect similar to deep breathing.
"Muscles of the diaphragm, abdomen, face, shoulders, back, and rib area are used, exercised and have increased relaxation afterwards. Scientists often refer to laughter as `inner jogging.' Research has suggested that laughter provides health benefits similar to other types of aerobic exercise! This can be especially beneficial for those who are bedridden, sick or cannot move well."
I love to hear the laughter of little children and feel great delight when I hear their squeals of joy. Little children are so pure that their laughter is always from pure delight. It is only as we get older that we learn to use laughter to hurt others.
Wise parents will teach their children the joy of laughter, but they will also teach them that it is inappropriate to laugh at other people or at sacred items or places. Loud laughter often takes place in circumstances that we should be avoiding anyway. We can strengthen our families, communities, and natins in several ways by encouraging smiles, giggles, chuckles, and joyful laughter.