Laughter is the Best Medicine…Really

How many times have you heard that?

Did you know that there has been research done to show the benefits of laughing? Humor is infectious! The sound of people laughing is more contagious than any cough, sniffle or sneeze. And, when laughter is shared, it helps bind people together, increasing happiness and intimacy.

You might wonder why I was thinking about this. Last night, my husband and I went to see the new movie “The A-Team.” For those who remember the 1980s, this was a pretty popular television show featuring George Peppard, Dirk Benedict and Mr. T. Everyone remembers Mr. T, with his Mohawk and favorite saying “I pity the fool!” or the Hannibal Smith character saying “I just love a plan when it comes together.”

When we arrived at the theater, I had a slight headache and could have easily gone to bed early. Despite feeling sluggish, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. It was laugh-out-loud funny combined with major action throughout the whole thing. At certain times, I had tears in my eyes from laughing so hard.

When the movie was over, I realized my headache was gone and I was no longer feeling like I wanted to go to bed. I was upbeat, laughing and smiling. The people in the theater seemed to feel the same way because when the movie ended, people cheered and clapped.

I decided to check into the benefits of laughter. Check this out:

Physical benefits of laughter:
•    Boosts your immunity
•    Lowers stress hormones
•    Decreases pain
•    Relaxes your muscles
•    Prevents heart disease

Mental health benefits of laughter:
•    Adds joy and zest to life
•    Eases anxiety and fear
•    Relieves stress
•    Improves mood
•    Enhances resilience

Social benefits:
•    Strengthens relationships
•    Attracts others to us
•    Enhances teamwork
•    Helps defuse conflict
•    Promotes group bonding

Laughter releases endorphins. These are the body’s natural “feel-good” chemicals that promote an overall sense of well-being and can temporarily relieve pain. A good hearty laugh will relieve physical tension and stress, relaxing your muscles for as long as 45 minutes. In addition, laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, adding protection against heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems.

So, next time you are looking for something to do, try laughing. Find a comedy club, watch a funny TV show or movie or try telling jokes. Even the failure to tell a joke well will usually get your friends to laugh.

Here is my prescription: laugh as many times a day as you can…and share it with others!

– Alesia J. Wagner, Regional Medical Director, Southern California

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