Do you remember the last time you laughed? I don’t mean that little snicker or a brief guffaw. I mean the kind of laughter that starts from your toes, moves all the way up your body until your sides ache. I mean the kind of laughter that involves muscles you haven’t moved or used in a long time. Your smile is so broad, it reaches to your ears and your cheeks feel stuck. As you calm down, you find yourself breaking into giggles, remembering what made you laugh in the first place, and you can’t stop giggling because you continue to remember what made you laugh.
When we laugh, stress is reduced and our blood pressure is lowered. We experience relaxation, as endorphins (the natural painkiller produced by the body), increase to enable a sense of well-being. Epinephrine which is the stress hormone produced when we are upset, stressed, or grief-stricken, is suppressed. The oxygen level in our blood increases, giving us more energy. Life is viewed from a different perspective. Gone are the feelings of “doom and gloom,” replaced by a beaming smile and confident countenance. More importantly, we become more attractive to others when we are smiling and laughing. No one wants to be around someone who seems to be miserable and is always complaining!
Norman Cousins, author and editor of the Saturday Evening Review was diagnosed in 1964 with a debilitating medical condition that had a very low rate of survival. His book, An Anatomy of an Illness documents how viewing comedy created laughter and elation, which helped him sleep, reduce pain and achieve natural healing of his body. Vitamin C was the only supplement to this regimen. Just as anger, frustration and other negative feelings contribute to elevated levels of epinephrine (leading to or perpetuating illness); laughter and joy increase healing endorphins and promote health and well-being.
The Comedy Channel is a must in my television viewing. I enjoy watching “Whose Line is it Anway?” This is a great show, with inventive comic improvisation. Bill Cosby’s comic routines mirror life experiences. We laugh as we commiserate with Bill’s attempts to make sense of family foibles and other life circumstances. Bill’s visit to the dentist is a favorite video and one I regularly play when I teach stress management workshops. It does cause raucous laughter with eventual giggles!
Whenever I can get a dose of laughter, I’ll take it! There’s no cost. I can do it at any time (obviously, in appropriate situations), and it’s not illegal!. I recommend a dose or two daily, and definitely as needed!