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Tags: Health Topics | laughter | happiness | health

Why Laughter Is the Best Medicine

Friends laughing
Friends laughing (Antonio Guillem/Dreamstime.com)

By    |   Friday, 16 August 2019 02:13 PM

People often attribute the phrase, "Laughter is the best medicine" to the American publisher and humor writer Bennet Cerf. But experts say its actual origin may be Biblical. Proverbs 17:22 says, "A merry heart is like medicine."

Whoever said it first, Ellen Jacob, author of the book "You're the Best Friend Ever," agrees with the premise: "Whoever said laughter is the best medicine was right — it's the glue that holds friendships together. To laugh together at life’s ridiculous turn of events makes those events bearable. To laugh at the funny things in life makes life wonderful."

Dr. Judy Kuriansky, psychologist and author of "The Complete Idiot’s Guide to a Healthy Relationship," tells Newsmax that laughter helps form a bond between two people.

"Laughter can become contagious, and it’'s a great technique to share your experiences with another person," she says. "It's also a way to switch your brain into a happier mode when you are feeling sad. You can start with a chuckle and work your way up to a full, all-out belly laugh. Laughing helps release tension and anxiety because it interrupts the patterning of our brain so we can let go and stop obsessing over what's worrying us."

A recent study published in the Journal of Neuroscience revealed that when people gathered to watch 30-minute comedy clips, their bodies released endorphins, which are "feel good" chemicals in the brain that can cause feelings of euphoria without the obvious downside of taking drugs.

Here are some of the other benefits of hearty laughter:

  1. Exercise. "When you allow yourself a good, old fashioned belly laugh, you are using your stomach muscles and shoulders, opening up your lungs, and actually improving your posture," says Kuriansky. "We spend so much of our time slumped over our devices that a good laugh can open up the heart and our bodies."
  2. Relationship enhancement. According to Forbes, couples who laugh together report having higher-quality relationships. Both men and women surveyed said that having a sense of humor is important in choosing a mate.
  3. Cardiovascular protection. Laughing appears to have an anti-inflammatory effect that protects blood vessels and heart muscles from cardiovascular disease, according to a study conducted by the University of Maryland Medical Center. It expands the inner lining of the blood vessels to allow blood to flow more freely. Stress has the opposite effect, causing blood vessels to constrict, which reduces blood flow. "Laughter leads to an immediate reduction in the body's negative response to stress, and causes the blood vessels in the body — including the heart — to increase blood flow," says Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Dr. Benico Barzilai, M.D.
  4. Stress reduction. Laughter also reduces production of stress hormones, including cortisol and epinephrine, which can cause cell damage.
  5. Immune system boost. Laughter boosts the number of antibody-producing cells that can lead to a stronger immune system.

Thought we are bombarded by bad news every day, Kuriansky suggests making an effort to look at the lighter side of things.

"Make it a point to look for the brighter side of situations, even if they don't seem so cheerful at the time," she says. "Watch good old-fashioned comedy shows and spend more time with joyful friends and family."

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People often attribute the phrase, "Laughter is the best medicine" to the American publisher and humor writer Bennet Cerf. But experts say its actual origin may be Biblical.
laughter, happiness, health
Friday, 16 August 2019 02:13 PM
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