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Lonnette Harrell

I didn’t feel well today, so I went to bed around 4 p.m. and slept until about 10 p.m. I woke up quite hungry, and went to the kitchen to fix some toast and soup. As I prepared the food, I turned on the TV, and began watching a rerun of Home Improvement with Tim Allen. I laughed until I couldn’t laugh anymore. I laughed on the inside and right out loud. And the more I laughed, the better I felt. Laughter is truly good medicine.

It turns out that there is scientific research to support what I already knew in my heart. According to studies, laughter reduces the level of stress hormones, and increases the good hormones like endorphins (natural painkillers) and neurotransmitters. Laughter strengthens the immune system, which results in less illness and physical effects of stress. When we laugh, we breath easier, and a positive outlook can even increase longevity.

Laughter provides an internal workout–like Santa we “shake when (we) laugh like a bowl full of jelly.” This “belly laugh” exercises the diaphragm, the abdominals, shoulder muscles, and even stimulates the heart.  Laughter is aerobic!  It has been compared to internal jogging. William Fry, a pioneer in research about laughter, found that it took 10 minutes on a rowing machine, for his heart rate to reach the level it would after just one minute of enthusiastic laughing.

Our muscles are more relaxed after we laugh, and we just feel better in general. Laughter makes us temporarily forget about our pain, both physical and emotional.

Recent studies by cardiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, indicate that laughter may prevent heart disease. Laughter even lowers blood pressure.

One of the most interesting findings was that people who had heart disease generally laughed less at situations in their lives, (even positive events), and they were also more outwardly angry and hostile. Laughter can lessen anger and anxiety.

When we have the ability to laugh at life, and our circumstances, we are much less likely to give in to depression and a feeling of helplessness. An M.D., Bernie Siegel, offers this advice, “The simple truth is that happy people generally don’t get sick.”

Laughter is a great way to break the ice, and connect with others. Haven’t you noticed how laughter is contagious? (Sometimes I can just hear someone else laughing, and I’ll start laughing also.) Statistics tell us that people are about 30 times more likely to start laughing in the presence of others, than when they are alone.

In 1962 there was an outbreak of laughter in Tanganyika. A group of schoolgirls aged 12-18, broke out into a fit of laughter (and sometimes crying), and it seemed to spread from one person to the next, until the whole community was affected. It became so widespread that the schools were forced to close, and it lasted for 6 months!

Ever notice those “laugh tracks” that play in the background of some of your favorite comedy shows? The producers are well aware of the contagious nature of laughter. 

Research has shown that preschoolers laugh up to 400 times a day, while adults only laugh an average of 17 times per day. (What a shame.) We need to start looking for ways to increase our laughter. It will keep us young at heart. Watch a funny TV program or movie, read a humorous book,  or socialize with friends and laugh joyfully together.

G.K. Chesterton wrote, “Angels fly because they take themselves lightly.” What great advice for all of us. We need to lighten up, and not take everything so seriously. Socrates wrote, “The comic and the tragic lie inseparably close, like light and shadow.”  Tamara Jenkins, writer and director of the Academy Award nominated movie, The Savages, commented in a recent interview that “Tragedy and comedy often operate in stereo.”

Studies have shown that even fake smiling (for no real reason) produces positive effects, as does fake laughter. Isn’t that interesting? (It could just be that taking a leap of faith into laughter, actually produces true laughter before it’s over.)

Pessimists are more likely to get sick when stressed, and they take longer to recover after surgical procedures.

Couples who laugh together often stay together, and enjoy more intimacy. Laughter actually plays a role in mating, and men are attracted to women who laugh freely. Females laugh more than men, and men are often the source of their laughter, according to Psychology Today. In fact, it is the laughter of the female that is a primary determination in whether a relationship is healthy. It might just be that the secret to a great romantic relationship is laughter. It helps us draw closer during the good times, and can restore closeness after the bad times. Many marriage counselors and family therapists are incorporating laughter therapy into their practices.

One of my favorite gifts, was from my daughter when she was younger. It was a key-chain that had a sign that read, “The most wasted day is that in which we have not laughed.” Even though our relationship has been stormy at times, I am glad that it is predominantly defined in her heart, by laughter.

Laughter makes all things better, and isn’t that reason enough to start laughing daily…

Please see this article, and others that I have written at:


One Comment

  1. Fantastic Article. Laughing is one of my greatest pleasures. Thank you.

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