Laughter is the best medicine

By Klaus Döring

The aphorism “laughter is the best medicine” has been attributed to the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament: “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones”. This ancient wisdom might also hold true for some medical conditions.

It’s true: laughter is strong medicine. It draws people together in ways that trigger healthy physical and emotional changes in the body. Laughter strengthens your immune system, boosts mood, diminishes pain, and protects you from the damaging effects of stress. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humor lightens your burdens, inspires hope, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert. It also helps you release anger and forgive sooner.

With so much power to heal and renew, the ability to laugh easily and frequently is a tremendous resource for surmounting problems, enhancing your relationships, and supporting both physical and emotional health. Best of all, this priceless medicine is fun, free, and easy to use.

As children, we used to laugh hundreds of times a day, but as adults, life tends to be more serious and laughter more infrequent. But by seeking out more opportunities for humor and laughter, you can improve your emotional health, strengthen your relationships, find greater happiness—and even add years to your life.

Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.

Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.

Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

Laughter burns calories. Okay, so it’s no replacement for going to the gym, but one study found that laughing for 10 to 15 minutes a day can burn approximately 40 calories—which could be enough to lose three or four pounds over the course of a year.

Laughter lightens anger’s heavy load. Nothing diffuses anger and conflict faster than a shared laugh. Looking at the funny side can put problems into perspective and enable you to move on from confrontations without holding onto bitterness or resentment.

Laughter may even help you to live longer. A study in Norway found that people with a strong sense of humor outlived those who don’t laugh as much. The difference was particularly notable for those battling cancer.

More than just a respite from sadness and pain, laughter gives you the courage and strength to find new sources of meaning and hope. Even in the most difficult of times, a laugh–or even simply a smile–can go a long way toward making you feel better. And laughter really is contagious—just hearing laughter primes your brain and readies you to smile and join in the fun.

Laughter shifts perspective, allowing you to see situations in a more realistic, less threatening light. A humorous perspective creates psychological distance, which can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and diffuse conflict.

Laughter draws you closer to others, which can have a profound effect on all aspects of your mental and emotional health.

Laughter releases endorphins, known as ‘feel-good hormones’. It increases the oxygen-rich air you take in and reduces stress hormones, bringing down your heart rate and blood pressure, and causing your muscles to relax.

Well, even if we think we don’t have reasons to laugh, we should try to express mirth spontaneously, and we should try to be merry or gay. We still have reasons to start with the softest form of audible laughter – the vocalized smile. This is what I learned and experienced from the first moment on while travelling in Asia since 1978, and being an expat living in the Philippines since 1999 for good. Keep smiling – even you are overloaded with huge problems.

Experts also say good humor works because it helps people feel easier in mind. The French psychotherapist Sylvie Tenenbaum stressed that, in her patients, laughter often signals the dawning of a wholesome awakening to reality. Gallows humor might be dubious in the eyes of others. But try to sing out loud, try to cry, but try to laugh!

As a devout Christian I love reading the bible. Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 say: “There is a time for everything… a time to be born and a time to die… a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh!”

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Email: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin or visit www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com.or www.klausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com.

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