Laughter is infectious. The sight of hearty laughter is far more contagious than any cough, sniffle, or sneeze. When laughter is shared, it binds people together and increases happiness and intimacy. Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Laughter lightens your burdens, inspires hopes, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded.
In addition to the feelings of joy and amusement, laughter also triggers healthy physical changes in the body. Humor and laughter strengthen your immune system, boost your energy, diminish pain, and protect you from the damaging effects of stress. Best of all, this priceless medicine is fun, free, and easy to use.
Health experts say that “Happy hormones” like immunoglobulin and cytokines fight bacteria and viruses and destroy tumors. William Fry, M.D., psychiatrist and professor emeritus at Stanford University, documented physiological changes from laughter similar to intense aerobic exercise. He stated that... “One hundred laughs is equal to ten minutes of aerobic exercise.”
Laughter can also help the immune system. Research at the Department of Clinical Immunology at Loma Linda University School of Medicine has demonstrated that the experience of laughter lowers the level of certain stress hormones and stimulates the immune systems by increasing the number of activated T cells and activated T helper cells. In addition, mirthful laughter enhances the activity of natural killer cells that play a crucial role in preventing disease.
Laughter stimulates blood circulation and oxygenation and promotes clear thinking. It increases natural disease fighter white blood cells, according to researchers Lee Berk and Arthur Stone. Their studies suggest healing is accelerated in people who laugh.
Other research shows that even the act of smiling when you don’t feel like it can reduce stress and improve your mood. Not only does it elicit positive responses from others, but it also promotes a sense of well-being. According to psychologist Paul Ekman of the Human Interaction Lab at the University of California in San Francisco, real smiles and fake smiles produce identical changes in brain activity, skin temperature, heart rate and respiration.
Laughter dissolves distressing emotions. You can’t feel anxious, angry, or sad when you’re laughing. It reduces stress and increases energy, enabling you to stay focused and accomplish more. Above all, sense of humour shifts perspective, allowing you to see situations in a more realistic, less threatening light. A humorous perspective creates psychological distance, which can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed. Laughter enables the processing of information in a new way. New perceptions can lead to different and healthier solutions to all difficult problems.
Sometimes, one irritation follows another, and before you know it, our day is ruined. An interesting account is given in the “The Encyclopedia Britannica’s 1982 Yearbook”, under the heading “Strange and Unusual Events.” It tells about a man named Brian Heise who had what you might call a “very irritating day”:
Brian Heise had more than his share of luck in July of that year, and most of it was bad. When his apartment in Provo, Utah, became flooded from a broken pipe in the upstairs apartment, the manager told him to go out and rent a water vacuum. That’s when he discovered his car had a flat tire. He changed it, then went inside again to phone a friend for help. The electric shock he got from the phone so startled him that he inadvertently ripped the instrument off the wall. Before he could leave the apartment a second time, a neighbor had to kick down the apartment door because water damage had jammed it tight. While all of this was going on, someone stole Heise’s car, but it was almost out of gas. He found it a few blocks away but had to push it to the gas station, where he filled up the tank. That evening Heise attended a military ceremony at Brigham Young University. He injured himself severely when he somehow sat on his bayonet, which had been tossed onto the front seat of his car. Doctors were able to stitch up the wound, but no one was able to resuscitate four of Heise’s canaries that were crushed to death by falling plaster. After Heise slipped on the wet carpet and badly injured his tailbone, he said he began to wonder if “God wanted me dead, but just kept missing.”
Many things in life are beyond your control. While you might think taking the weight of the world on your shoulders is admirable, in the long run it’s unrealistic, unproductive, unhealthy, and even egotistical. So, learn to laugh. Cultivate a humourous attitude. Find humour in daily life and difficult situations. Learn to laugh at yourself. Learn to belly laugh and tell jokes. Hang out with people who are fun to be with who make you laugh. Eventually you will find your health and life change positively.