April 2016 Newsletter – Laughter Is No Joke!

“Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.” Mark Twain

April is National Humor Month and so that got me to thinking about laughter. Perhaps you’ve heard the famous quote from the poem Solitude by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, “Laugh and the whole world laughs with you”. It turns out there is scientific evidence to prove that true! Apparently, just like a yawn, laughter is contagious. According to a 2006 study at the University College of London the brain responds to the sound of laughter and preps the muscles in the face to join in the mirth.

It is a fact that laughter itself changes us physiologically. Like exercise, it boosts the heart rate and increases blood flow, so we breathe faster and more oxygen is delivered to the body’s tissues. Our facial muscles stretch. Research published in the International Journal of Obesity found just 15 minutes of laughter a day will burn 10-40 calories, depending on a person’s weight and the intensity of the laughter. That is enough to lose between 1–4lbs a year. Furthermore, the mere act of smiling can alter your mood almost immediately. You can’t feel sad or angry when you’re laughing, right?

Here are a few of the benefits of laughter:

  • Reduces Stress: When stressed, we produce a hormone called cortisol. Laughter can significantly reduce cortisol levels.
  • Helps Reduce Pain: Laughter causes us to produce endorphins, which are natural, pain-killing hormones.
  • Strengthens the Immune System: A hearty laugh decreases stress hormones and increases production of T-cells, immune proteins and infection-fighting antibodies.
  • Helps the Heart: When we laugh we increase blood flow and the function of blood vessels, which can help prevent cardiovascular problems.
  • Relaxes the Whole Body: One good belly laugh can relieve physical tension and relax your muscles for up to 45 minutes.
  • Helps You Recharge: By reducing stress levels and increasing your energy, laughter can help you focus and achieve more.
  • Improves Aging: Sharing laughs with others is related to higher self-esteem, lower levels of depression, anxiety, and perceived stress, and a more positive self-concept.

With all this good news, it just doesn’t seem right that we laugh less as we age. Young children are recorded laughing around 400 times a day. Adults are lucky to laugh 10 times a day! This helped create a mission for me. I challenged my husband to join me in attempting to laugh 400 times in one day. Quite honestly, after a while we lost count of the laughs. I posted on Facebook that we doing this and received jokes from friends. We found ourselves making humorous remarks about our day as it progressed. The more we did laugh, the more there seemed to be reasons to laugh.

Maybe it is my imagination, but somehow all that laughter made traffic lighter, in spite of the fact that this is Spring Break time in Florida! When the challenge was over, the laughter lingered. I did notice us becoming less tolerant of people and situations, so back to laughing we went. When stress tried to interfere with my mood, I forced a laugh. It seemed silly, so then a real laugh followed. Suddenly the stress was gone and I could deal with a particular situation clear headed.

I offer you the same challenge. Look around, what is funny? Do you have a good joke to share? Let your inner child out and have a few laughs. Turn the corners of your mouth up into a smile and then give a laugh, even if it feels a little forced. Notice if your muscles seem a bit more relaxed. Let the healing power of laughter be the gift you give yourself and others, you’ll be glad you did!

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