Written by Dr. Eric Perry, PhD
“Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband’s lap.” ~Unknown 1900 BC
The worlds oldest recorded joke dates back to 1900 BC. This joke proves that toilet humor has been around for a very long time along with mankind’s need to laugh. We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with the serious side of life. We have 24-hour news stations, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and other forms of social media that can overload the senses. In today’s stress-filled society, finding humor in life and learning to laugh at ourselves is important. Research shows that laughter is not only good for the soul but is beneficial for health!
In honor of April being National Humor Month and to commemorate the passing of legendary comedian Don Rickles, who passed away this week at the age of 90, here are 5 benefits of laughter and some jokes to help shed some of today’s stress.
1. Lowers blood pressure and reduces stress hormones
“One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my Pajamas I’ll never know.” ~Groucho Marx
Studies have shown that laughter can reduce systolic blood pressure by 10 points in just 20 minutes. When we laugh we reduce levels of stress hormones related to high blood pressure. Laughing triggers the stress response by reducing the level of stress hormones such as cortisol. A good laugh stimulates your blood circulation and provides your body with a mini workout. The next time you are feeling stressed, watch a funny movie. You will be amazed how much better you feel.
2. Boosts the immune system
“I knew I was an unwanted baby when I saw that my bath toys were a toaster and a radio.” ~Joan Rivers
Research has shown that laughter triggers the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is essentially the backbone of the immune system. This includes the lymph nodes which are the blood’s cleaning stations. Unlike the circulatory system which is pumped by the heart, the lymphatic system is moved by inertia in a semi-circular manner; always moving towards the heart. The good news is that the lymphatic system is activated by laughter. A good belly laugh will produce the necessary diaphragmatic breathing that is necessary to flush the system by increasing the speed and flow up to 15 percent. The increased flow causes more lymphocytes to be produced. The more natural killer cells we have circulating in our bodies the more immunity we have against sickness.
3. Triggers the Release of endorphins
“Thanksgiving, man. Not a good day to be my pants.”~ Kevin James
When we laugh our brains release endorphins that create a feeling of joy and euphoria. Endorphins are the bodies natural painkiller and give us a greater sense of well-being. Research has shown that laughter can help ease chronic pain and increase the overall sense of wellbeing. Fifteen minutes of laughter can increase pain tolerance by around 10 percent as a result of the endorphins released by the brain. Laughter boosts our mood and our confidence. People who have a positive outlook on life tend to fight disease better than those who have a negative outlook.
4. Improves cardiac health
“Most people don’t realize this, but you can eat organic, all natural, gluten-free food without telling everyone around you.” ~Chris Rock
People who laugh a lot regularly have lower blood pressure than people who don’t. Studies have shown that certain personality types such as those who are hostile and angry have higher rates of heart disease. Other studies have examined the circulation in the blood vessels of two groups. The group who watched a stressful movie had their blood vessel lining constricted and circulation decreased. Those who watched an upbeat and funny movie had increased circulation and their vessel lining dilated. The effects of laughter have been found to last up to 24 hours. People with heart disease are 40 percent less likely to laugh than people without it. Laughter improves blood flow, reduces blood pressure and gives your heart a workout. Overall, it seems that positive and joyful people are healthiest.
5. Improves memory
“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the hell she is.” ~Ellen Degeneres
In a recent study, a group of older adults were separated into two groups. One group watched a funny video for 20 minutes while the other group sat calmly with no video to watch. Afterward, they were given memory tests and had their saliva analyzed for stress hormones. Those who watched the funny video scored higher on short-term memory tests. Also, salivary levels of the stress hormone cortisol were significantly less than the other group. It appears that the less stress a person has the better their memory functions. Laughter reduces stress hormones which lower blood pressure and elevates mood; resulting in better memory and recall.
It is important to develop a sense of humor and train ourselves to laugh more. Be willing to laugh at yourself! If you have a favorite joke or funny story please leave it in the comment section below so we can spread laughter and good health. Thank you for following and visiting this blog!
The thoughts expressed in this blog post are my own and are not meant to create a therapeutic relationship with the reader. This blog does not replace or substitute the help of a mental health professional. Please note, I am unable to answer your specific mental health questions as I am not fully aware of all of the circumstances.
Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology
M.A. in Clinical Psychology
B.A. in Psychology
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