L is for Laughter

Yes, I've actually done presentations in these shoes

Yes, I’ve actually done presentations in these shoes

Did you hear the one about?…

The focus on the benefits of laughter began in earnest with Norman Cousins’ memoir, Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient. Norman who’d been diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis, a painful spine condition, discovered that a regimen of comedy films like Marx Brothers and episodes of Candid Camera made him feel better. He said that 10 minutes of laughter allowed him 2 hours of pain-free sleep.

Scientists attribute the benefits of laughter primarily to its ability to combat the physical and emotional characteristics of chronic stress, which have been shown to suppress the body’s immunity.

The Health Benefits of Laughter
Laughter reduces stress by increasing the body’s secretion of growth hormone, which, in turn, has a positive effect on immunity. Increased stress is associated with decreased immune system response.

Laughter decreases the release of adrenaline and cortisol, two of the worst culprits in weakening the immune system. Studies suggest that similar to exercise, laughter releases endorphins that the body uses to fight pain and depression.

Len, Peter and Laurie Laughing

Len, Peter and Laurie Laughing

Research done at the University of Maryland Medical Center shows that “Laughter is similar to exercise in that it decreases blood pressure, increases muscle flexion, improves the overall performance of the heart’s muscular functions, and possibly wards off heart disease.”

Roberta Gold, recreation and humor therapist based in California said, “The physiological processes the body undergoes during laughter are relaxing. Your circulatory system works better, you oxygenate your blood better, and you feel better afterward, physiologically and emotionally. The benefits of comedy aren’t just physical. While laughter improves the body’s physiological processes, a sense of humor is paramount to mental health. Laughter stimulates positive emotions and encourages a more positive outlook.”

Research at the University of North Carolina determined that a positive mental state—such as one brought on by humor—increases open-mindedness, creativity, and the capacity to adapt to change.

Experts also speculate that a sense of humor goes hand-in-hand with higher levels of “emotional intelligence” which determines a person’s ability to handle their feelings and understand the emotional states of others.

Karen and Peter Cracking Up!

Karen and Peter Cracking Up!

Humor has also been linked to improved test scores. In a study at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, researchers divided students in a graduate biostatistics class into 2 groups. They administered identical exams to each group, except that one set of tests had humorous instructions. Students who received the amusing exam scored significantly higher than those with the ordinary directions.

Laughter decreases blood pressure, normalizes heart rate, and increases appetite. To top it off, it’s a great workout that helps the lungs breathe better and keeps muscles in the diaphragm, abdomen, respiratory tract, face, legs, and back healthy.

According to a study released by the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2000 meeting, laughter and an active sense of humor may also help to prevent heart and artery disease.

The University of Maryland Medical Center studied the effects on blood vessels when people were shown either comedies or dramas. After viewing, the blood vessels of the group who watched the comedies behaved normally, expanding and contracting easily. However, the blood vessels in people who watched the dramas tended to tense up, restricting blood flow.

One study of people with diabetes looked at the effects of laughter on blood sugar levels. After eating, the group attended an intentionally tedious lecture. The next day, the group ate the same meal and then watched a comedy. After the comedy, the group had lower blood sugar levels than they did after the lecture.

Laurie & Len know how to have a fun time!

Laurie & Len know how to have a fun time!

How does it work?
Scientists speculate that humor stimulates the brain’s reward center in the same ways as SEX and CHOCOLATE. In turn, this reward center secretes 2 hormones into the brain: dopamine and serotonin. Also known as happiness molecules, these are anti-stress chemicals associated with the feeling of happiness. As we grow older, the production of these chemicals in the body decreases, so laughing becomes all the more important with increasing age.

As a Holistic Health Practitioner, I can share this fact with certainty: of the 206 bones in the human body, the most important one is the funny bone. Laughter is indeed the best medicine!

When was the last time you enjoyed side-splitting laughter?


© TuesdaysWithLaurie.com

31 thoughts on “L is for Laughter

  1. “And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh.”
    Friedrich Nietzsche

  2. Love the quote, Gil! Laughter is probably one of the bestest gifts ever! There’s not a day that goes by, that my husband, son or my boys at school (10th-12th graders) don’t crack me up – somehow, some way. Even if I want to be crabby, the guys in my life can jolly me out of it! 🙂

  3. “Laughter reduces stress by increasing the body’s secretion of growth hormone, which, in turn, has a positive effect on immunity. Increased stress is associated with decreased immune system response.”

    Indeed Laurie, and I did expect to see this under “L” thought your presentation here is truly magnificent. Love seeing those photos of the clan mixing it up, and I fully understand you guys had a Thanksgiving Day to remember! Without laughter and a disarming world view, one leaves themselves vulnerable to the ills of melancholy and the accompanying depression that informs taking things way too seriously. In addition to all the clinical matters you so eloquently present here, one can lead a well-rounded, structured and happy life withought the proper perspective colored by humor.

    I love the Marx Brothers of course, and I’d add Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, The Little Rascals, Laurel & Hardy, The Three Stooges, Will Hay, Harold Lyod, Abbot & Costello, Peter Sellers, Mel Brooks, Preston Sturges, Tati and Woody Allen to that indellible cinematic mix. And of these will always cure the blues!

    • Sam – The generous comedy list you’ve shared has the ability to provide more value than many of the prescriptions that some physicians prescribe. Thank you for stopping by today.

  4. I am rarely in a situation which promotes laughter, and cannot remember the last time I experienced a side-splitting one.
    Thankfully though, I tend to be pretty happy and at least I believe I smile frequently.
    I do love to laugh though when given the opportunity 🙂

    • Ted – I’m so glad you popped in today. When is Miss Jewelia expected back home? I’m sure that you and Ailsa will LAUGH (perhaps even crack up!) when she regales you with tales from her adventure in America.

      • Hi Laurie,

        Right about now she is at a MayDay Parade concert in Orlando. She leaves Orlando for home tomorrow evening Orlando time, and will get back here Monday afternoon our time – she’s just over two days away.
        Looking forward to the tails of her adventures.

      • Ted – I hope that her flight and connections back are a little less eventful than they were coming. Please let me know once she arrives home safe and sound.

  5. Well at one time I had a condition that would cause “laugh attacks”. They were great!! All those physical benefits happened at it was pure JOY to experience the tremendous release that these attacks allowed. Over the last 5 years, the attacks have subsided and I truly miss them. Although I can not pinpoint what allowed them to happen in such an uncontrollable manner, I do know that I was in an open state of being during those years. I did not worry or stress, I did not try so hard to figure things out, I did not have children yet (that explains the worrying) and I always believed things somehow things would be alright. I just WAS. Then all it required was a trigger, something to tip me over into pure side-splitting laughter combined with tears of joy. An example of one of these triggers is the time my doberman pincher went out in the night and was sprayed by a skunk. She ran back into the house frantic and drooling. At 3Am my husband and I put her in the tub with the only ingredient that we believed would work in this situation and that we had available – tomato paste. After our 120 lb. dog shook water and paste all over my husband standing in the tub in his underwear, it was all over for me and I became useless as I rolled on the floor in complete euphoric laughter for an immune boosting 15 minutues!! I am joyful to say that I look forward to returning to that open state again and to the many triggers that are waiting to tip us in the right direction.

  6. I live with Groucho Marx, Laurie. Seriously. Jonathan’s birthday is October 2, same as Groucho’s. My birthday is the same as Sigmund Freud’s (May 6). To top it off, Jonathan is all left-brain and I am more right-brain. Put together a genius mentality with Groucho’s style and my Freudian let-me-take-this-seriously attitude and I qualify as a sitting duck for jokes. Fortunately, they are funny and stuff I never would have thought of on my own.

  7. I laughed just looking at your pictures! Laughter IS the best medicine. And isn’t it fun to be with someone who enjoys laughing? It can make the most ordinary day EXTRAordinary!

  8. I love laughter too. Jerry makes me laugh every day. I am so blessed to have him. Laughter is the rejection of the unexpected thing that comes AFTER an initial acceptance, then a recognition that–Hey, wait a MINUTE… it doesn’t fit.

    I am very sensitive to the way humor is used, and how long the shelf life is of certain types of comedy.

    We can all see how certain comedic styles are immortal; Chaplin is a classic example because we can actually decipher, with some help, the Roman numerals MCMXXIV on the credits and recognize that the humor made by Chaplin in 1924 is still quite hilarious in 2010. That’s a pretty long shelf life; almost as long as a Twinkie.

    If one composes humorous offerings for others and establishes a pattern that is satisfying, once the pattern is set, it becomes easier and easier for the “Transaction” of comedy to take place.

    The young develop their own acceptable rhythms of relating funny things to one another, and it perforce becomes a kind of coded shorthand, just as certain beats in the music of the day tells aficionados what to feel. And just as old music styles no longer excite the imagination but become iconic or static styles, so do the methods of communicating humor, irony, and other comedic forms.

    To me, the “contemporary” YouTube/FunnyOrDie comedic style has a sort of “Random” quality. The old Bob Hope, set-up/gag/deadpan form is completely absent, and in its place is something that looks like an artistic free-for-all, a pastiche of very random viewpoints and delivery styles, mirroring in some way the disorderly nature of our whole society. It’s as if the thing we latch onto as a common element to which everyone can relate is CHAOS.

    However, in case you feel, as I do, that there is quite enough chaos in the world, thank you very much, and that perhaps you like to laugh at things in a traditional way, I draw your attention to the fact that Sid Ceasar is still funny, the Marx Brothers are (most of the time) still funny, that Chaplin is still funny, that P.G. Wodehouse and Mark Twain and even Shakespeare (once you break out your Shakespeare Concordance and clear up all those crazy old timey words) is still funny, and show every sign of staying funny for the next century at least.

    I felt like passing the humor “hat”. Laurie, you inspire the best in all of us. love to you!!!

    • Kathy – This was an enlightening read, thank you for sharing it here with us. If you don’t already know Sam Juliano and his other cinema friends over on Wonders in the Dark, then please follow the link. Just last night I watched “Bicycle Thieves” (a black and white, 1948 Itanlian movie with sub-titles) that I would have never otherwise seen and it was wonderful!

  9. Well since I’ve been at my sister’s we’ve been hootin’ and hollerin’ with laughter. We just can’t be together with laughing about everything. Her husband is calling us the robe twins because they are trying to conserve on heat and we’re a little cold. Julie was wearing her robe when I arrived on Thursday night. I put down my suitcase, took off my coat and put on my giant, ugly, fuzzy robe and we laughed and laughed!!!

    And the next hilarious piece that will live in infamy around Mosinee is the fact that I can’t eat cheese. Charles brother Chuck said he could never “be with me” because I can’t eat cheese. I didn’t know he wanted to “be with me, in the first place! hahahahaha!

    So now we keep teasing him about wanting to marry me.

    • Beth – Great story! I can just see you and Julie hootin’ and hollerin’ with laughter, and it would be highly contageous, making everyone else in the viscinity laugh right along with you two 🙂

  10. Awesome post Laurie.

    Last night two of David’s children were visiting and they were teasing each other about all sorts of things like they might have done when 8 and 10…. like who was going to get the best sleeping spot and so on. Since they are in their 30s it was this warm cozying up as family and made me laugh that deep belly laugh of contentment. So good to have them home for a visit… even if it was only for overnight.

    • What a fun story, Terrill! Last night we were with six children between the ages of 4 and 17, trying to watch the movie, “How to Train Your Dragon.” The pivotal word being “trying.” Real children, really bickering is not a barrell of monkeys. Thirty-year-olds being youngsters in jest would be funny!

  11. Pingback: Tweets that mention L is for Laughter « Speaking from the Heart -- Topsy.com

  12. Hi, Laurie, it’s about time we all had a good laugh, and even if we don’t all laugh at the same things, the laughter is there for the taking. Look around in everyday life and you’ll find something to smile about, enjoy a silent chuckle or if you are lucky enough, find something to split your sides. Like Kathy, I enjoy the classic humor of Mark Twain, the drollness of Wodehouse and even the best “tongue in cheek” offered by Shakespeare. I find that when I lighten my heart with laughter, even my feet and head become lighter as a result. Who wouldn’t want to live on the lighter side of Life?

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