In the last week I looked at some of our hard-wired changes to our body, brain and emotions. How we feel is critical to our overall well being and there have been a number of studies into the effect of laughter on our health. One of the organs that benefits the most is actually our brain.
Holding onto your marbles.
It is very important that as well as feeding the brain nutrients and supplying healthy fats, oxygen and fluids, you provide it with stimulation.
One of the causes of dementia is lack of stimulation. Visual, aural, verbal. For elderly people the world begins to shrink back until they are probably restricted in movement within a small space with perhaps just the television or radio for company. Even with the Television you will find that eventually there will only be one or two channels watched with the news and soap operas and Midsummer murders!
This is why any social interaction is so important as we get older. For most, not all, our natural instinct is to recede to a safe zone but those who do stay in the world and continue to laugh, enjoy new music, movies, plays and group activities, stay mentally and physically healthier.
Laughter is universal – every culture will have its particular funny bone that others would not see the point of, but put most of us in a room with other nationalities and eventually someone will start us off. It might be a stand-up comedian in front of a packed theatre – or it might be round the dinner table after a couple of glasses of good wine.
Children have a natural ability to laugh from a very early age – they are not afraid to express themselves – they do not have years of conditioning about what is appropriate or not. I remember getting a fit of the giggles at my mother’s funeral – imagining her reactions to the proceedings. I only managed to hang onto my decorum by severely grasping my husband’s left thigh in a death grip which to onlookers might have looked equally inappropriate!
There are actually laughter clubs around the world where people gather and start a voluntary laughter cycle rather than a spontaneous one. No humour or jokes involved, just a steady Ha,ha,ha. Hasyayoga is performed in groups with eye contact and you will be surprised how soon the deliberate laughter turns into the infectious kind we are used to in a crowd. The belief is that forced laughter holds the same benefits as the naturally occurring variety.
Health benefits of laughter.
When we laugh we tend to increase our rate of breathing inhaling more oxygen which gets pumped into our bodies filling us with energy and at the same time reducing stress.
As we laugh heartily, nearly all of the 400 muscles in the body will come into play, which is a form of internal aerobics.
If you laugh throughout an hour-long comedy show, or at someone’s jokes, you will use up 500 calories.
The act of laughing causes our blood vessels to dilate reducing blood pressure and stimulates the production of more T-cells in our immune system helping us to fight infections.
Laughing releases endorphins and neuropeptides into the bloodstream which have a number of measurable effects on us. These either act as painkillers or improve your mood.
The types of problems that seem to respond well to laughter therapy are stress, asthma, arthritis, insomnia, depression, frequent infections and recovery from cancer.
Laughing with others strengthens social bonds, attracts people with similar senses of humour, helps relieve tensions in relationships and illustrates a level of trust where you are willing to share something trivial or amusing with another. Laughter is as contagious as a cold or flu and there is actually something very satisfying about reducing someone to tears with laughter.
So it strengthens your immune system, increases your cardiovascular flexibility, makes you think clearly, improves your mood, releases stress, relieves pain, lowers your blood pressure, boosts the entire body and if it is shared with a friend doubles the effects.
There is no doubt that attitude does make a huge difference when you are battling a serious illness and laughter plays a major part in turning infusing the body with a positive energetic and healing environment.
And this is the way to do it…