You will rarely hear a doctor say, “Get a good belly laugh and call me in the morning.” But research shows that a giggle or two can help you lose weight, reduce stress, boost your immune system and more. According to the Journal of Neuroscience, laughter releases endorphins in the brain through opioid receptors. This induces a state of euphoria similar to the reaction from addictive narcotic drugs, but without the side effects.
According to David Friedman, best-selling author of Food Sanity: How to Eat in a World of Fads and Fiction, laughter also activates the release of serotonin, the key hormone that stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being and happiness.
“A good belly laugh also increases our number of immune cells and infection fighting-antibodies,” adds Friedman, who is a doctor of chiropractic and naturopathy, and holds a post-doctorate certification in neurology. Friedman’s latest book, Funny Bones: True Tales From a Chiropractor That Will Crack You Up!, is chock full of funny stories to help get you laughing to reap the health benefits.
Some of the jokes include quips from celebrity clients he’s treated in his North Carolina practice, including Jenny McCarthy, Dean Cain, Andie MacDowell, John Travolta, and the late Robin Williams. Friedman’s tales of his encounters with these stars are hilarious.
“Truth is often truer — and funnier — than fiction,” Friedman tells Newsmax. “The reason I wrote the book is to share the joy I’ve found in my practice and add a little levity for my readers to laugh more in their lives.”
Here are some ways laughter can benefit your health:
• Weight loss. Laughing burns calories. In fact, cracking up at just one joke can burn up to 40 calories, according to a Vanderbilt University study. This could lead to a weight loss of three to four pounds over the course of a year if you learn to laugh daily. Researchers determined that the increase in heart rate and oxygen consumption during funny moments makes the heart beat faster and the body burn fat.
• Mimics the effects of exercise. Research conducted by University of Maryland Medical Center, found that laughter is also a great form of exercise and affects hormones in the same way that working out does. When you laugh for 15 minutes, the increase in the diameter of blood vessels is similar to what you get when you run, jog or do an aerobic activity. The physical act of laughing, the contracting of muscles, and resulting biochemical reactions increase heart rate, help blood travel better to the muscles, and cause the same endorphin release as running.
• Relaxes the body. According to Helpguide.org, a good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving the muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes.
• Protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.
• Dispels anger. Nothing diffuses anger and conflict faster than a shared laugh. Looking at the funny side can put problems into perspective and enable you to move on from confrontations without holding onto bitterness or resentment.
• Helps you stay mentally healthy. Laughter makes you feel good, says Helpguide.org. And this positive feeling remains with you even after the laughter subsides. Humor helps you keep a positive, optimistic outlook through difficult situations, disappointments, and loss.
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