By: JD Author, Reporter-Journalist

Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion.

 I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.

~Kurt Vognett

Each of us have experienced laughter and appreciate the warm and good feeling it evokes.  I know I have. I have been known to share many a joke and have a great sense of humor despite medical and financial adversity in my life, and know the positive impact it has had for me.  There have been times that my medical condition has created stress that bordered absolute fright.  I recall in early 2000, when I was about to embark on the challenge of a lifetime.  I was told that I needed brain surgery immediately for a rare condition I didn’t even learn I had until that week.  If it were not for the humor of close friends and family, I think I would have had a heart attack from the rapid increase of arterial blood flow causing me to explode in fright.  After the survival of that experience, and many more to follow I am able to look back and kind of chuckle and use them as coping mechanisms through the current events, that peak my stress.

Where would we all be if we had no laughter or no one to laugh with?

Research  and statistics based on viewership of sitcoms and comedy channels through media sources, demonstrate a collective enjoyment of jokes and humorous situations by all generations.  But ask yourself the age old question.  Is laughter really the best medicine, as that classic saying implies?  Unsurprising to most, there actually is documented proof that laughter can help keep you healthy both from a mental and physical perspective. A good sense of humor cannot cure all ailments, but data indicates the incredibly positive impact laughter can have.

In recent studies done through Mayo clinic, it has been found that laughter has a profound effect on the serum levels of an individual’s hormones. The specific hormones I am referencing are the glucocorticoid, catecholamine, growth and prolactin hormones.  Now to the layman who hates big, geeky medical terms, you may be thinking “What the heck are those hormones”?  So let me tell you what they are, and how they can be affected by stress and how laughter can change them for the good.  Some of these hormones we refer to as the “fight or flight” hormones which we need on occasion as a mechanism of meeting the need to adapt to changes in our circumstances that need immediate adjustment.  Most changes however, can be detrimental to our well being.

In 2010 the Journal of Medicine released a study stating that stress hormones, more often than not, increased blood platelets, which can lead to forms of arterial obstructions, raise blood pressure and suppress the immune system.  This same study also concluded that an increase in laughter generated an absolute increase in T-cells, an integral part of our immune response.  It also elevated B-cell counts, which promote the growth of disease destroying antibodies and gamma-interferon, a well known disease fighting protein we all need.

Did you also know that laughter increases our ability to produce salivary immunoglobulin-A?  Immunoglobulin-A is known for helping fight organisms entering the respiratory system via our mouths when we laugh, and it also secretes an enzyme that protects the stomach from forming ulcers?   Amazing that the spit that forms when we laugh can actually do that!  Guess we need to listen to more mouth-watering jokes.

When I think of the relationship between laughter and pain, What comes to mind another old saying “laughing until it hurts”.  Laughter that is intense, and leads to us laughing hard enough that we feel a twinge of discomfort in our bodies can be very healthy mentally and physically.  Laughter in good measure, releases endorphins that provide a small form of natural pain relief.  Laughter can be used as a tool to release some of the negative emotions and tension experienced when we are angry, sad or afraid.  True, it may not alter the outcome of a sad and difficult situation we may face in our day to day lives, but it can clearly provide a well needed break from the worry, a respite from the need to be logical for a few moments, and a chance to just “let go” of seriousness and responsibility, even if for only a brief moment.

Often in life, we tend to look back at past events and mishaps that were stressful at one time, but as we recall them, we can laugh at that embarrassing moment and feel a sigh of relief we survived it and also feel less focused on current stress for the moment, knowing we have dealt with things then, and perhaps we feel more light-hearted about current events.  Not only does  laughter when we reminisce help our overall well being, but when we share laughter with others, it offers us a connection to others.  Were sharing a moment in time that is a crucial building block towards strengthening relationships.

How fun would it be to always be around a person who manages to not laugh at life as often as they are able to pinpoint a negative in every topic?  I think that would be they type of person I would least likely to be around, or if I had to, would find another means to laugh, just to counter their negativity.  I have had to resort to this method, as believe it or not, despite my humor, I do know a select few who are lacking any for the most part.  Their lack of true optimism is reflective  in the not so humorous jokes they that leave me and a good portion of others (with exception to a few reddit addicts who find the stupidest crap funny, which is entertaining as well because we laugh at their intellectual lack of humor), that leave me scratching my head and wondering how it was possible they could find that funny.  Perhaps their pessimistic nature has already turned many away from their style of odd and incomprehensible lack of what is funny and what is plain unintelligent no matter their IQ (or lack of).

So when you’re having struggles in life that are stressful, try to find some laughter, because truly it can be a start to good healing. Laughter has great short and long term benefits.  Not only does it tend to lighten the mental load but when you draw in that oxygen-rich air as your prepare to belt out a hearty laugh, you are stimulating your lungs and muscles and will increase those brain endorphins to release and it stimulates your organs.  Laughter activates and then relieves your stress responses by triggering the momentary elevated blood level and heart rate when laughing then returning it to a calm after the laugh, giving you a sense of relaxed feeling.  During this process it also stimulates that circulation through muscles which can help relieve tension that has affected the painful physical symptoms sometimes caused by the long term effects of stress.

Keeping humor on our horizon through laughter with friends, laughter at a funny book or a television show, in my opinion can be a great key in improving our overall well being.   I have found it very beneficial to many facets of my life.  If you’re interested, you can read my book, and find the many laughs and hardships I have had over the last 15 plus years and how it has tremendously improved how I look at life and the perspective it brings to many situations.  That book is available here…

Walk With me My MS Journey

Think humor has no effect?  Then put it to the test.  Turn the corners of your mouth up into a smile and then give pout a healthy laugh, even if it feels like you have to force it out, try.  Now that you have had that chuckle, sit back and think about those few seconds afterwards.  How does it feel?  Try it a second time, and picture the most recent funny joke you heard or read.  How do you feel now?  That is just a small amount of the power of the healing of laughter.  Truly one of the best medicines out there, because it is FREE. Also remember if you’re going to share this healing effect with others to be mindful of what is an appropriate joke for each setting. Remember to never laugh at the expense of others. Some forms of humor aren’t appropriate. Use your best judgment to discern a good joke from a bad, or hurtful, one.

Research references for this article are available upon written request to anunsilencedvoice@gmail.com

 

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