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It's No Joke; Laughter Really Is Good for You

Posted - Jul. 13, 2004 at 8:20 a.m.



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Studies indicate that humor has healthy benefits. Here are a few reasons why you should allow the contagious condition known as laughter to find its way into your routine:

Laughing boosts immunity. Individuals with a developed sense of humor produce antibodies in increased numbers. "T cells -- natural killer cells, which attack viruses -- increase, while foreign and natural cells decrease," said Dr. Stanley Tan of Loma Linda University.

He added: "All neurohormones (hormones) act like an orchestra -- each instrument makes a particular note. Laughter makes the entire orchestra more melodious or balanced. In other words, laughter brings a balance to all components of the immune system."

Hearty laughter is good for your heart. A study completed by the University of Maryland Medical Center indicates that people who laugh regularly have lower blood pressure and healthier hearts. When you have a good laugh, your blood pressure initially increases, but afterward it decreases to lower levels. Breathing then becomes deeper, which sends oxygen-enriched blood and nutrients throughout the body.

Laughter is a power workout. Exercise your diaphragm, abdominal, respiratory, facial, leg and back muscles all at once just by giggling. You'll massage abdominal organs, tone intestinal functioning and strengthen the muscles that hold the abdominal organs in place. Laughter also benefits digestion and absorption functioning. It's estimated that hearty laughter can burn calories equivalent to several minutes on the rowing machine or the exercise bike.

Laughter can moderate stress and fight depression. Put simply, humor elevates your mood. Paul McGhee noted on his Web site, laughterrememedy.com, that telling jokes induces cohesiveness among individuals, which leads to reduced anxiety. Plus, incorporating humor into your daily routine can help you to better cope with trying situations and give you higher resiliency and a heightened morale.

Laughter makes you smarter. Well, sort of. Humor can stimulate your creativity. In a recent presentation, Debbie Hender, a registered nurse in the Catholic Health System, stated: "Laughter loosens your mental gears and encourages out-of-the-box thinking. Anecdotal evidence suggests that humor can even improve your memory."

Humorous ad campaigns, amusing meeting facilitators and quirky occurrences tend to be logged into our short- and long-term memories better than any other types of stimulation.

Now that you know the benefits of increasing the amount of humor in your life, here's how to do it:

Take a laugh break. It's like a coffee break, only better. Make sure you have all the necessary tools: a good joke, a few co- workers to listen and the desire to laugh.

Lighten up. Try not to let small setbacks in daily life bother you. Jerry Seinfeld focused his career on a sitcom that enlightened some of life's most annoying nuances. Life is funny; laugh at it.

Spend more time with happy people. They laugh more often and louder, and that can rub off on you.

Fake it. If you have to, force yourself to laugh. Even forced laughter can bring positive benefits. Eventually, you'll learn to enjoy it and it will become subconscious.

It's no joke -- a good chuckle several times a day is good for you and those around you. So, did you hear the one about the man who walked into the bar?

(C) 2004 Buffalo News. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved

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