Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Take Time to Laugh Each Day

There it was, on the Internet, in black and white, highly pixilated print, so I knew it just had to be true: "The Health Benefits of Laughter." The article went on to explain, "Laughter is a key component of a happy life, and it has powerful physical and mental benefits. No matter what you're facing, you can learn to laugh and benefit from its healing ways."

Now I enjoy a good belly laugh just as much as the next guy. I like The Big Bang Theory, and The Crazy Ones, and I've busted out laughing more than once watching them. I've been known to enjoy Billy Crystal and Chris Rock, along with Jimmy Kimmel too.

Why? I love to laugh.

Now I read that laughter is a health benefit. How great is that? I haven't heard such good news since I was told a glass of wine a day is good for your health.

So what are the benefits of laughter? Well, let's see.

Laughter reduces depression. Research shows people who use humor to fight stress also feel less lonely and more positive about themselves. One study found humor therapy was as effective as widely used antipsychotic drugs -- minus the side effects -- in managing agitation in patients with dementia. I like the sound of that.

Laughter is also a common therapy among cancer patients; they find laughing improves the quality of their lives. Makes sense to me.

Laughter is heart healthy. Some research shows that when you laugh, there is an increase in oxygen-rich blood flow in your body. This is due possibly to the release of endorphins, which create a chemical rush that counters negative feelings and stress. Two activities that increase endorphin release are a good workout and listening to music you love. Laughter too deserves its place on the list with these other stress busters. (The next time the doctor says you need to work out, turn up the jams and have a good laugh: mission accomplished!)

One thing the study didn't mention is that laughter is contagious. A giggling baby in church starts the congregation laughing, or at least smiling. A surprise snort from a person in a crowd can be the spark that ignites a full-scale laugh bomb. A laughing boss bodes no harm. For best results, laugh with him.

We may not all be stand-up comics, but that doesn't mean we can't laugh out loud and often. I like to laugh at the silly things I do or say. That takes the sting out of being foolish. I like puns. I like jokes. I like to laugh with my family. I like to find the humor in a situation rather than search for the alternative.

For example, my wife looked at me while I was driving the other day and with those big baby blues, she said, "You're lost, aren't you?"

I responded, "No, we're on an adventure."

The next day she bought me a GPS. Now I have two women telling me where to go.

Annie Fellows Johnston (1863-1931) was an American author of children's fiction who wrote, "Remember, men need laughter sometimes more than food."

Now that makes me laugh.

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