Laughter Is the Best Medicine

By Alexander Germanis

A man walks into his doctor’s office and the doctor asks, “What seems to be the problem?” “Someone painted graffiti on my house last night,” replies the patient. The doctor is understandably confused and asks, “So, why are you telling me?”The patient responds, “I couldn’t make out any of the writing, so I thought you might have done it.”

Anyone who has ever seen a physician’s chicken scratch scribble on a prescription pad understands this joke all too well. While the joke may not be all that great, even if it elicited a little chuckle it still managed to fill the age-old prescription for laughter.

While laughter may not be the cure for everything that ails us, it has proven to be a pure form of medicine. Over the years, medical science has illustrated there are many benefits to laughter, and our guffaws, giggles, and chortles continue to be studied to determine what other positive impacts laughter might have on the human body.

Laughter plays a great role in stress relief. The Mayo Clinic reports that laughter activates then relieves a person’s stress response, increasing and decreasing the heart rate and blood pressure. In a sense, it acts very much like short bursts of exercise. The improved blood circulation coupled with muscles contracting and relaxing result in a general soothing of physical tension.

To aid in stress relief, laughter also triggers the release of endorphins in the brain, resulting in a happier, more content disposition. In cases of people suffering from chronic illness and depression, finding humor in things and letting loose with laughter on a regular basis has lessened their depression.

There are social benefits to laughter, too. Laughter makes it easier to connect to total strangers and people from different walks of life, such as while seeing a stand-up comedian perform. Sharing a good laugh can also further cement already existing friendships.

An improved immune system can result from laughing regularly as well. Just as stress can cause negative responses in your immune system, the positive influence of laughter can release neuropeptides—molecules used in neuron communication—to fight stress and potentially even more serious illness.

It is even fair to say laughter has power akin to a wonder drug. By enhancing your intake of oxygen-rich air, laughter can result in a stimulated heart, lungs and muscles. It is also believed it causes the body to produce natural painkillers.

Dr. Michael Miller, a cardiologist from the University of Maryland, showed through experiment that laughter seems to produce as much benefit for the arteries as aerobic exercise. Theoretically it does so by directly affecting the endothelium, the single layer of cells lining the blood vessels.

While it is important to note laughter alone is not considered a substitute for regular exercise, it has proven it should be an indispensable part of one’s daily health regimen. A half hour of physical exercise and 15 minutes of laughter per day can go a long way in not only extending one’s life, but in improving it.

So, read a joke book, play games with friends, watch your favorite sitcom, see a comedian. Laugh a little and then laugh a little more.

And to help get things started, here is another health joke:

A married couple goes to the doctor’s office so they can run some tests on the husband. The doctor says, “Okay, we’re going to need a urine sample and stool sample from you.”The man, not hearing the doctor at first, turns to his wife and asks, “What did he say?”

His wife replies, “He said they need your underwear.”

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