April 17, 2014

Health Benefits of Laughter

There Are Many Health Benefits of Laughter And Smiling

I thought it might be nice to post a light hearted article on my site, especially in light of the challenging times, in which, we find ourselves. We can control to a great degree what kind of day we will have if we simply make the decision to “return evil with good” or take a positive attitude in the light of a bad environment. The health benefits of laughter and smiling are quite impressive and have a substantial impact of the levels of serotonin and other endorphins in our bodies.

Attitude is everything so the saying goes. Laughter is health to the bones. There is always some validity to these truisms; science has shown that people who smile and laugh are a lot healthier. My husband got into a car accident and the next day came down with the flu. He called to cancel an appointment with someone and in explaining his situation, his associate shared with him that the very same situation had happened to him. So this theory works antithetically as well. When we are emotionally jarred, our immune systems are more susceptible to infection as well. There are health benefits of laughter, smiling, exercise, and a joyful attitude. This has been well documented and as many home spun remedies has been known to be true for thousands of years “A merry heart is health to the bones”.

As there are health benefits of laughter – there are also physical consequences that accompany frowning and a negative attitude

I have witnessed the opposite of a positive attitude with friends and family; it seems like the complainers are always sick and bad things are constantly happening in their lives: could this be a vicious circle?  We are human and our thoughts drive our emotions and in turn our chemistry; we are in a better mood when more of our neurotransmitters are present in our systems – could it be possible to “trick” our brains into releasing more of these chemicals? It seems so, at least according to studies that empirical evidence to substantiate this theory. When we laugh and smile we release endorphins and neurotransmitters into our brains this is the short explanation to the health benefits of laughter.

I remember reading a Reader’s Digest article about a man who “laughed his way out of terminal cancer”. Talk about health benefits of laughter! Smiling exercises 14 facial muscles. When we laugh our blood pressure goes up and then comes down. We also stretch our lungs, relax our chests, and breathe easier. Laughter causes our bodies to release chemical compounds associated with an improved mood. When we can laugh at something, we change our perspective and our attitude. It is hard to have a grumpy outlook when we’re laughing. As we laugh we momentarily distract ourselves from our problems and, perhaps, even from our physical discomfort.

Research has found that four-year-old children smile and laugh about 400 times a day while adults smiles and laugh only 14 times a day. This number seems to diminish as the years click on. I have the utmost respect for an elderly person who can smile and have an awesome attitude on life. They too are the healthiest and seem to live the longest. I have known many people of whom were ill; yet they hung in to close the “big deal” or to see their grandchildren and then moments later passed-on. How uncanny to think that someone can control the timing of their death; yet the evidence for this is undeniable and further shows how our attitude controls our health which in turn controls our body chemistry.

Now you may say that you don’t have much to laugh about, and this may be true. It’s hard to force yourself to laugh, especially, when you don’t feel like it. You can, however, make yourself smile. Forcing yourself to smile may work almost as well as laughing, at least, for changing your mood. My husband has been in sales for over 20 years and he will tell you that the successful sales people know how to talk on the phone. The secret is the smile because they know that the person on the other end of the telephone can sense their enthusiasm. Everybody wants to be around enthusiastic, positive people! Additionally, it is hard to get angry, mistreat, or abuse someone with a smile on their face and… come to think about it, they make you feel better and your serotonin goes up. I heard a motivational speak jokingly refer to this as “selling drugs”. Have you ever wondered how animals can sense fear and happiness? I have read in studies that their sense of smell is so powerful they might be able to smell our endorphins that are being released as we smile or are frightened (just a guess).

Putting a big smile on your face sends a message to your brain that things are okay. If you are smiling, your brain thinks, “I must be happy.” You can fool yourself into feeling good by smiling and thus increase the neurotransmitters in your system. Looking good is feeling good, take care of your body, exercise, you’ll be amazed how you can force your brain to produce the endorphins and neuro transmitters.

Be sure you smile today. Smile on purpose, even if you don’t feel like it. See if you can fool yourself into a good mood. As the saying goes, “Fake it until you make it”. Laugh, if you can. Humor is good for you. It improves your mood and health. Practice smiling and see if your life doesn’t begin to go better. Take charge of your feelings and see if you can’t take the edge off life and what it throws at you. Realize the benefits of laughter and a train yourself to smile; you won’t be disappointed and frankly quite surprised at the results. You will be amazed at how easy it is to train yourself to smile – even in tense situations. My husband bless his heart gets nervous when he speaks in public and he has told me that somehow instead of quivering or sweating he has the tendency to smile under pressure. I have also heard that some Native American cultures do the same, when they are embarrassed or in awkward situations they smile. Well I may conclude by promoting one addiction and habit and that is to smile and laugh as often and as soon as possible!

this article for informational purposes and not to be used to diagnose or treat any mental health issue
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