Every wondered why all your problems seem lighter after a good laugh? Or felt a spike in energy after watching a favorite comedy show on TV? A happy, upbeat mindset affects our moods, decisions, our relationships, and even our physical health in a significant way. And the role of LQ or the laughter quotient in this whole equation of body–mind–soul wellness can’t be stressed enough. Here’s how you can make the most of this wonder drug and laugh your way to good health!
Laughter reduces neuroendocrine and stress hormones, particularly cortisol. Excess levels of this hormone have a negative impact on metabolism, weight management, immunity, and bone health. According to a study by Berk et al., even the anticipation of a laughter event reduces stress hormones by a significant margin.1 Humor therapy is also known to significantly improve short-term memory and learning ability.2
Effect On Depression
According to a Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute report, dopamine and serotonin, “the feel good hormones,” are released by the brain as a response to laughter. These hormones are effective in reducing the symptoms of depression.3
A Healthy Heart
Looks like your heart loves a good belly laugh too! Dilation of blood vessels (particularly the endothelium) during a hearty laugh leads to better blood circulation. It also improves blood flow through major arteries and reduces the risk of heart disease. Researchers at the University of Maryland studied the effect of humor on two groups of subjects. While one group watched stressful segments from a war movie, the other group was shown funny parts from a comedy. There was a remarkable improvement in blood circulation in the latter group due to the dilation resulting from laughter.4 Laughter also decreases artery inflammation and increases the good cholesterol HDL.5
Laughter increases the number and activity of T-cells or lymphocytes, which form the base of the body’s defense system. After a good laugh, the immunoglobulin A or IgA levels also increase. IgA provides the body protection against upper respiratory tract infections.6
Ever heard of the man who laughed and lived? A study by Margaret McCaffery shows how Norman Cousins, a journalist battling debilitating ankylosing spondylitis, laughed his way back to health and life. He stopped all medical intervention and self-treated his condition with huge doses of vitamin C and induced bouts of laughter, brought about by viewing videos of comedy shows and movies. He survived a good number of years more than his doctors had predicted due to increased immunity induced by laughter.7
It gets more interesting! Laughter is a good exercise for the muscles of the abdomen, diaphragm, and face, and can help you fight those extra pounds off. When we laugh, these muscles contract and relax, leading to an increased amount of oxygen in the blood – the same benefit we get from an aerobic exercise. Laughter is also known to burn as many as 10 to 40 calories in a 15-minute session, depending on the person’s weight and the intensity of laughter.8
Tried Laughter Yoga Yet?
The idea of laughter as therapy has been endorsed by many scientists. People facing bleak life situations, fighting diseases, or even generally looking to boost positivity can all benefit. Interventions that induce laughter have been found to improve the quality of life and cognitive function of the elderly9 and alleviate signs of depression, anxiety, and stress in breast cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy.10
Laughter yoga (hasya yoga) is also fast catching up as a much sought-after alternative therapy for a number of ailments. Laughter yoga focuses on prolonged laughter that is voluntary or induced and is accompanied by deep and rhythmic breathing. Laughter clubs across the world are championing the role of laughter in total body–mind–soul synergy.
So not only can laughter light up a gloomy environment, it can actually set your body off on a wellness trail. Laugh to your heart’s content and let your body revel in the benefits. After all, happy people make a happy planet!
|↑1||Berk, Lee S., Stanley A. Tan, and Dottie Berk. “Cortisol and Catecholamine stress hormone decrease is associated with the behavior of perceptual anticipation of mirthful laughter.” The FASEB Journal 22, no. 1_MeetingAbstracts (2008): 946-11.|
|↑2||Bains, Gurinder Singh, Lee S. Berk, Noha Daher, Everett Lohman, Ernie Schwab, Jerrold Petrofsky, and Pooja Deshpande. “The effect of humor on short-term memory in older adults: a new component for whole-person wellness.” Advances in Mind-Body Medicine 28, no. 2 (2014): 16.|
|↑3||Humor, Laughter, and Those Aha Moments, Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute.|
|↑4||Miller, Michael, and William F. Fry. “The effect of mirthful laughter on the human cardiovascular system.” Medical Hypotheses 73, no. 5 (2009): 636-639.|
|↑5||Humor helps your heart? How? American Heart Association.|
|↑6||Bennett, Mary Payne, and Cecile Lengacher. “Humor and laughter may influence health IV. humor and immune function.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 6, no. 2 (2009): 159-164.|
|↑7||McCaffery, Margaret. “Laughter is the Best Medicine: An Interview with Norman Cousins.”Canadian Family Physician 29 (1983): 805.|
|↑8||Buchowski, M. S., K. M. Majchrzak, K. Blomquist, K. Y. Chen, D. W. Byrne, and J. A. Bachorowski. “Energy expenditure of genuine laughter.”International Journal Of Obesity 31, no. 1 (2007): 131-137.|
|↑9||Ko, Hae‐Jin, and Chang‐Ho Youn. “Effects of laughter therapy on depression, cognition and sleep among the community‐dwelling elderly.”Geriatrics & Gerontology International 11, no. 3 (2011): 267-274.|
|↑10||Kim, So Hee, Yean Hee Kim, Hwa Jng Kim, Soon Haeng Lee, and Si On Yu. “The effect of laughter therapy on depression, anxiety, and stress in patients with breast cancer undergoing radiotherapy.” Journal of Korean Oncology Nursing9, no. 2 (2009): 155-162.|