The Perfect Medicine for Stress in These Troubling Times. . . Best of All, It’s Free with No Side Effects
By Joseph Lilli
It’s no secret. We live in troubling times.
No wonder stress, anxiety, and depression are at all-time highs.
But there is a simple and highly effective way to diffuse stress . . . while also putting us in a good mood . . . and even activating our immune system.
What is it? Laughter.
Yup. Good old laughter.
Laughter is medicine. And as the headline touts, it’s free with no side effects.
Anything that elicits a chuckle, a chortle, or even a good belly laugh has many positive physical benefits.
Besides reducing stress, anxiety, and depression, laughter lowers blood pressure, reduces pain, and improves our immunity and heart function. Laughter appears to tell the immune system to “rev it up.”
One research study found that when subjects watched a humorous video, laughter increased the number and activity level of natural killer cells that attack viral infected cells and some types of cancer and tumor cells. It also boosted antibody IgA (immunoglobulin A), which battles upper respiratory tract infections, and increased gamma interferon and IgB as well.
He Laughed His Way Back to Health and Life
If you’re about my age, you’ve probably heard the story about journalist Norman Cousins. He had Ankylosing Spondylitis, a rare disease of the connective tissues.
His doctor, also his friend, told him in 1964 he had a 1 in 500 chance of survival. Although urged to “get his affairs in order” because he had only a few months to live, Cousins refused to accept the news.
Besides firing his doctor and abandoning any medication, Cousins checked into a hotel where he had another doctor give him injections of massive doses of vitamin C. He also got a movie projector and a pile of funny movies including the Marx Brothers and “Candid Camera” shows.
He watched film after film and laughed he said until his stomach hurt from it. The result – Cousins lived 26 more years, dying on November 30, 1990.
While it can’t be proved that laughing per se saved his life, we do know that laughing strengthens the immune system that fights disease. So maybe it did extend Cousins’ life . . . and maybe it can extend our lives as well.
Besides, if laughing doesn’t add more years to your life, isn’t it better to laugh and make life more pleasant?
Laughter Does A Lot More . . .
We already know that laughter is a powerful form of stress relief. And that it strengthens our immune system, improves our mood, and diminishes pain.
But Matthew Kelley, who wrote I Heard God Laugh, says laughter can do a lot more for the body, mind, and soul. He writes:
“A good laugh relaxes the body, eases tension, and leaves your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes. Laughter stimulates your heart and increases the number of endorphins released by your brain, which creates an overall sense of well-being.
“When you laugh, the amount of oxygen-rich air that rushes to your lungs increases. Laughter reduces blood pressure, increases blood flow, and can help protect you from a heart attack.
“It increases happiness, reduces anger and other negative emotions, and increases resilience in the face of obstacles and unpleasant events. Laughter increases our energy and enthusiasm for life.
“People who laugh regularly are more joyful and have healthier hearts. Humor improves personal satisfaction, strengthens our relationships, helps defuse conflict, shifts our perspective, and attracts other people to us.
“Laughter connects us with others, makes our burdens seem lighter, and can reduce anger and conflict. It creates a sense of belonging and bonds people together.
“It enhances teamwork and improves productivity. Laughter and humor build trust, encourage collaboration, increase likeability, draw people to listen, improve memory and retention, make arguments more persuasive, and increase learning by reducing classroom anxiety.
“Laughter releases serotonin, which improves focus, decision making, problem solving, objectivity, openness to new ideas, and overall brainpower.”
Laughter May Be One Reason I Enjoy Good Health
I’ve been laughing all my life. For one, I see humor in a lot of things, and this makes me feel great.
In fact, one of the first things I do in the morning is read the comics in the daily newspaper. I avoid reading the bad news . . . well, because frankly, it often makes me feel bad.
But the comics always bring a smile to my face and often a hearty laugh. Now that’s how I like starting my day.
I’ve also enjoyed being around people who had a great sense of humor . . . because that can quickly lead to a boatload of laughs and a rush of endorphins.
When I was a boy, I recall my Uncle Bob and his amazing reservoir of funny stories and jokes he would spin. He often left me laughing so hard that tears sometimes rolled down my cheeks.
And then there was a good friend of mine, Johnny Bock, who had a spontaneous sense of humor. If someone said something, serious or not, he could quickly draw humor out of it that drew immediate laughter.
Once when he visited me in college, we were walking across campus with a couple of classmates. Someone in the group for no apparent reason started singing the Mickey Mouse song . . . M-i-c-k-e-y M-o-u-s-e.
Immediately, Johnny blurted out, “Well, I can spell my name, too.” We all broke out in riotous laughter.
Seek Out Funny Stuff
Author Marci Izard Sharif says, “I suggest seeking out funny stuff and making it a point to laugh.”
She adds, “Look for things to laugh at – shows, videos, conversations, articles, you name it – and even giggle over things you don’t necessarily find hilarious. Laugh just because. Heck, do it right now!”
You heard her. Do it right now. Believe me, you’ll feel a whole lot better for it.