Laughter is strong medicine for both the body and the mind. It helps you stay balanced, energetic, joyful, and healthy at any age. A sense of humor helps you get through tough times, look outside yourself, laugh at the absurdities of life, and transcend difficulties, reports HelpGuide.org.
Laughter establishes and/or restores a positive emotional climate and a sense of connection between two people. According to Psychology Today, some researchers believe that the major function of laughter is to bring people together. All the health benefits of laughter may simply result from the social support that laughter stimulates. Laughter is said to:
- Reduce pain.
- Allow us to tolerate discomfort
- Reduce blood sugar levels
- Increase glucose tolerance in diabetics
Let’s take a closer look at new evidence that laughter is good medicine. According to American College of Cardiology, laughter helps your blood vessels function better. It acts on the inner lining of blood vessels, called the endothelium, causing vessels to relax and expand, increasing blood flow. In other words, it’s good for your heart and brain, two organs that require the steady flow of oxygen carried in the blood.
The endothelium regulates blood flow and adjusts the propensity of blood to coagulate and clot, explains Dr. Michael Miller, MD, director of Preventive Cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center. In addition, it secretes assorted chemicals in response to wounds, infection or irritation. It also plays an important role in fighting cardiovascular disease.
“The endothelium is the first line in the development of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries,” said Dr. Miller. “Laughter offsets the impact of mental stress, which is harmful to the endothelium.” Dr. Miller can’t say for sure exactly how laughter delivers its heart benefit. The benefit could come from the vigorous movement of the diaphragm muscles as you laugh. In the brain, laughter might trigger the release of such hormones as endorphins that have an effect on arteries.
The health benefits of laughter, especially among seniors, have encouraged a type of therapy called Laughter Yoga, or Laughter Wellness exercises, which appears to lift depression, and improve chronic ailments and mobility. This type of therapy is often administered at senior centers or assisted living facilities where large groups of seniors gather.