Laughter is an amazing healer. I’m lucky in that I get to laugh a lot since I have a funny husband and a hilarious daughter. To them, nothing is sacred. If it will get a laugh, everyone and anything is bait. Plus I have a silly sense of humour, so it doesn’t take much to get me into fits of giggles. Start a food fight, and I’m in. Ring someone’s door-bell and run like hell has mascara streaming down my face. Pull down your trousers and stick your bottom out of a car window, and I’ll swerve off the road in hysterics. I’ve been on a spiritual journey most of my life, and often I have taken myself and life itself far too seriously. But then along comes the laughter, and my body, heart and soul come back into balance.
And is there anything more contagious than hearing people laugh uproariously? What to do when you find yourself joining in and you haven’t a clue what was so funny?! And worse, when you have forty fits of the giggles, and an annoyed someone tells you to stop, you keep going for another half hour or so! I love a good laugh and I love being around funny people. For me, along with garlic (!) it’s the best medicine there is.
The best thing of all, is that laughter is good for your health, and scientific studies have demonstrated that it greatly reduces stress hormones, lowers blood pressure levels, reduces tension in the muscles and it boosts the immune system to protect against disease. Laughter, it turns out, causes the release of endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers, and they produce a state of euphoria and a feeling of well-being.
According to Steve Wilson, physiologist, Joyologist, and Founder of the World Laughter Tour, ‘When you look at all the research on laughter, it strongly leads us to the conclusion that one of the main purposes of laughter is the discharge of tension. Laughter also energizes people. If you laugh long enough and hard enough you reverse the physiology of stress. And anything that can reduce the ill-effects of stress is an ally in health and happiness.’
Apparently, laughter can even help you lose weight (though I’m not one to look to for example!). A study performed in 2005 by Maciej Buchowski, Ph.D demonstrated that 10 to 15 minutes of laughter a day burns 10 to 40 calories. This adds up to a weight loss of about 4 pounds (1.8 kg) per year. So get laughing girls and boys! When we laugh, we also work out specific systems in the body. We stretch muscles in the face and neck, we increase our rate of breathing and we work our abdominal muscles. So who needs the boring gym when we can have a good laugh?!
And we humans are not the only species who love a good chuckle it seems. Scientists studying animals and laughter tell us that
chimpanzees laugh in a similar way to us while playing with each other. Dogs laugh too, though in a less familiar way, chuffing and huffing and snorting, and in doing so, draw other dogs into play with them. And…laboratory rats chirp when tickled (who’d want to tickle a rat?)
Laughter unites us. It brings down barriers between people, making us less defensive and more real about who we are. It helps improve all our relationships and can lead to more positive outlooks on life.
So friends, next time you’re feeling stressed, put on a funny movie, something you know will make you laugh till you pee your pants. By the time it is over, you’ll be right as rain.