Wellness Bytes – Laugh it up, Chuckles….

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Wellness Bytes #5

Listening to my daughter struggling with our hoses while washing cars made me burst into laughter today. First the connection didn’t work right, then one of the hoses ripped and I heard screams as the cold water was spraying out. This all occurred during a time of intense study and concentration for me. The “laugh attack” put me in a more open and relaxed state of mind. This led to a decision to write about laughter this week.

There is a fair amount of information about laughter and health, but the truth is that studies linking the two are not extensive, nor do they include large groups of people. Studies have shown that laughing temporarily raises oxygenation, blood pressure and heart rate. The latter two go back to baseline soon after. In healthy people, the rise in oxygen is not significant, as they already have a pulse oximetry reading of nearly 100%. Paskind (1) conducted a study showing increased muscle relaxation up to 45 minutes following laughter, and there is some promising data connecting laughter to an increase in immune function. Laughing is believed to be a good stress reliever for those suffering from chronic stress. There are even laughter “clubs”, based on Haysa Yoga (laughter yoga), that promise health benefits from purposeful laughing. Whatever you believe about a good “knee-slapper”, there is no doubt that it gives us a sense of release, pleasure and relaxation. It’s fun!

The average child laughs 300-500 times daily, while adults laugh an average of 15 times per day, so here are some suggestions for tickling your funny bone:

  • Cultivate friends who laugh often or have a laugh that is contagious
  • See funny movies or go to comedy clubs, especially with the above friends
  • Subscribe to a daily joke or cartoon online
  • Spend time with your children or grandchildren while they are at play
  • Play creative, humorous games
  • Notice moments in your day that have a flavor of satire, irony or wit
  • Don’t forget to laugh at yourself!

I can still recall moments of uncontrollable laughter at the dinner table or having to stifle myself in religious services, as a child.  Now I find that a great comedy or well-timed joke with friends can make me double over with laughing.  Afterward, I feel relaxed and joyful. How does humor and mirth affect YOUR life?

(1) Paskind J. Effects of laughter on muscle tone. Arch NeuroPsychiatry 1932;28:623–8.

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