Skip to main content

What's Up Magazine

Funny Ha Ha or Funny Healthy

Oct 01, 2014 10:28AM ● By Cate Reynolds
The well-being that comes with laughter

No matter your ethnicity, nationality, geographic location, age, or education, if you are human you have laughed. What causes us to laugh may vary wildly in sophistication or complexity (from Monty Python to Dumb and Dumber), but we have all laughed. As did our ancestors. But why?

One of the most plausible theories (Mother Nature has never explained herself on the subject so it’s still a matter of guesswork) is that laughter is a communications key that began more than 30,000 years ago as a way to demonstrate and share a sense of relief at danger averted. “Don’t worry fellow Cro-Magnons, that stampeding herd of woolly mammoths missed our camp completely!” LOL. (BTW: laughter probably got a bit louder around 6,000 B.C.—that’s when they first brewed beer.)

And it’s a very good thing that we can all laugh—because it may be the most universally accessible medicine on the planet.

The Mayo Clinic certainly thinks so. The Clinic cites specific physiologic benefits of laughter such as enhanced intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulation of our heart, lungs and muscles, and an increase in the endorphins that are released by our brain. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation. Positive thoughts actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more serious illnesses. It is even believed that laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers. At the very least, it can be a welcomed distraction.

The Cancer Nutrition Centers of America (CNCA) know all about a healthy diet of laughter. “Humor is one of the most frequently used complementary therapies among cancer patients, and research suggests it could benefit people suffering from virtually any chronic disease because of its beneficial effects on the immune system,” they contend. The physical act of hearty laughter, they explain, is like a good workout—“it decreases stress hormones, benefits cholesterol levels, enhances immune activity and improves mood.”

CNCA also claims that laughter may ease digestion, soothe stomach aches, relieve pain, balance blood pressure, improve mental functions (alertness, memory and creativity), reduce stress and tension, improve sleep, strengthen social bonds and relationships, and produce a general sense of well-being.

And let’s take a page from the state of Indiana’s government website which highlights various Lighten Up and Laugh programs. (Didn’t know Hoosiers were funny? David Letterman, for one, was born in Indiana.) The chilled folk of Indiana actually spell out the benefits of laughter for us and make them easier to remember:

aughter releases endorphins, giving us the ‘feel good factor’

cts as aerobic exercise and is like ‘internal jogging’

nleashes inhibitors; breaks down barriers

reat team building tool; encourages better communications

elps boost our immune system, helps us resist disease

ones muscles; improves respiration and circulation

ncourages positive thinking and creativity

elaxes the whole body by reducing stress and tension

So turn off the evening news, gather the family around and watch The Big Bang Theory or Modern Family when you get home tonight. Once you’ve put the kids to bed, watch The Hangover, Caddyshack, Some Like It Hot, or anything with “National Lampoon” in the title or Mel Brooks’ name in the credits. And sleep well.