What medicine enhances heart health, boosts brain function, lowers blood sugar levels, and releases tension and stress? Laughter! A cost-free prescription for optimal health, wellness, and longevity. Laughter’s health benefits exceed far beyond the emotional and into the physiological, where they impart a healthful ripple effect throughout the body, influencing our cardiovascular, digestive, and nervous systems.
Laugh Your Way to Perfect Health
Laughter starts its journey in your brain. When you hear a joke, the left hemisphere of your brain sets to work decoding the words, while the right hemisphere figures out the humor behind the joke. At the same time, the visual sensory area of the occipital lobe creates associated images; the limbic emotional system triggers the familiar feeling of euphoria; and the motor sections of your brain activate your smile and laughter. In other words, your entire brain is engaged in a full brain workout!
From your brain, the laughter journeys down through your body. The respiratory system gets an entire workout, while your face, diaphragm, abdominal, leg and back muscles stretch and flex. This quite physical workout releases muscular tension and stress—an effect that has been shown to last up to 45 minutes!
Laughter for health is a great workout for your heart. As you laugh, your blood pressure and heart rate increase. Oxygen uptake boosts blood flow, lowers blood pressure, and keeps blood vessels pliable and healthy. If you’re motivated by quantifiable measurements, check this out: a Vanderbilt University study determined that 10-15 minutes of laughter burns around 50 calories.
Laughter also helps regulate blood sugar levels. Researchers analyzed the blood sugar levels of 19 men and women who sat through a boring lecture after a meal. The next day, participants sat through a comedy flick after the same meal. Their blood sugar levels were notably lower the day they watched a comedy.
A recent study establishes a link between laughter for health and enhanced short-term memory. Loma Linda University researchers found that 20 healthy older adults who watched a funny video for 20 minutes performed much better on memory tests and had significantly lower levels of stress hormones than did healthy older adults who sat calmly with no video for 20 minutes.
Other health benefits of laughter include:
- Increasing disease-fighting immunity cells
- Encouraging creativity
- Boosting alertness
Your 5-Minute Laughter Break
Whether you’re in the middle of stressful deadlines, or actually having a very relaxing day, a 5-minute daily laughter break is always warranted. Stretch that 5-minutes to 10 or even 20 and you get healthy bonus points!
Not a huge guffawer? No sweat! Whether you express your laughter with dainty chuckles or boisterous hoots, you’re benefiting either way. With each laugh, your immune system is sharpening, your heart is strengthening, and your memory is fine-tuning.
Let’s start you off with a nutrition joke (if you don’t think it’s funny, then laugh for the health of it!):
A lady was picking through the frozen turkeys at the grocery store but she couldn’t find one big enough for her family. She asked a stock boy, “Do these turkeys get any bigger?” The stock boy replied, “No ma’am, they’re dead.”