Laughter is Contagious, and Worth Catching!

“Humor is a physical release–
one of four, actually. These
include crying, yawning, orgasm
and laughter. You can do them
in succession. Just get the
order right.”    -Steve Allen

The beauty in the video above is that no one knew why they were laughing- they just knew it felt good, and it literally spread the length of the subway car. I’m certain not everyone in that subway was in a good mood when they arrived. But, can you imagine how much better they must have felt after taking that ride- after a long stressful day of life?

Laughter is a powerful thing mainly because it automatically boosts our emotional, physical and social well-being (wellness). Laughter has been shown to reduce tension, anger and depression, lowers stress levels, reduce blood pressure, boost immune responses, and more…

Effects of Laughter on the Body

In the last few decades, researchers have studied laughter’s effects on the body and turned up some potentially interesting information on how it affects us:

  • Blood flow. Researchers at the University of Maryland studied the effects on blood vessels when people were shown either comedies or dramas. After the screening, the blood vessels of the group who watched the comedy behaved normally — expanding and contracting easily. But the blood vessels in people who watched the drama tended to tense up, restricting blood flow.
  • Immune response. Increased stress is associated with decreased immune system response. Some studies have shown that the ability to use humor may raise the level of infection-fighting antibodies in the body and boost the levels of immune cells, as well.
  • Blood sugar levels. One study of 19 people with diabetes looked at the effects of laughter on blood sugar levels. After eating, the group attended a tedious lecture. On the next day, the group ate the same meal and then watched a comedy. After the comedy, the group had lower blood sugar levels than they did after the lecture.
  • Relaxation and sleep. The focus on the benefits of laughter really began with Norman Cousin’s memoir, Anatomy of an Illness. Cousins, who was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, a painful spine condition, found that a diet of comedies, like Marx Brothers films and episodes of Candid Camera, helped him feel better. He said that ten minutes of laughter allowed him two hours of pain-free sleep.
  • Similar to exercise. We change physiologically when we laugh. We stretch muscles throughout our face and body, our pulse and blood pressure go up, and we breathe faster, sending more oxygen to our tissues. Though minimal, laughter also burns calories. Just 10 – 15 minutes of laughter can burn up to 50 calories.

Conduct your own experiment. Next time you are laughing hysterically, see how much better you feel afterwards compared to when you first started. Laughter heals.

-O. Salim Thornton, CWC

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