Just how good is laughter for me? Can it really have an impact on my health?
Well, let me turn it around for just a minute. Have you ever known anyone who laughed at an inappropriate time?
Yep, that’s me.
I’ve definitely laughed and made jokes at inappropriate times. The thing is, I knew it was inappropriate when it happened, but caught between the choice of laughter and crying, or anger, or sadness…..I went with the bad joke and chuckle. And the inward cringe.
Although I was feeling those deeper emotions, it allowed me to release some of the pressure of the feelings without completely losing my dignity and turning into a blubbering wreck.
Before you judge me too harshly, let me explain that I judge myself constantly for it.
That doesn’t help, and it doesn’t change anything. As an extremely sensitive person, I don’t have that thick shell others seem to have when discussing their emotions.
I cry when I see tears well up in someone’s eyes. I cry when I think about crying. And the older I get, the less chance it seems to be improving. For me, it’s either cry or laugh. I’d like to think that’s part of the reason why I currently take no prescription medications.
You might call it the Mary Poppins syndrome.
Or the Pollyanna Principle. Try to look on the bright side. Try to find the silver lining. Laughing feels good. Crying does not.
But what effect does laughter have on your health? Is there scientific proof that it affects a person’s health?
Actually, it has been studied.
Loma Linda University, University of Maryland, among others, have done dozens of studies on the therapeutic value of laughter and humor in general. William B. Strean, PhD, says this about the effectiveness of laughter as a health treatment: “There are, however, several good reasons to conclude that laughter is effective as an intervention. Although the evidence (detailed below) demonstrating laughter’s benefits could be stronger, virtually all studies of laughter and health indicate positive results. Similarly, there are almost no negative side effects or undesirable ramifications associated with laughter as an intervention.”
Laughter has been used in cancer patients, with the elderly, and in mental health treatments with depressed individuals. It has been shown to help by
- lowering stress and cortisol levels,
- strengthens the immune system,
- boosts serotonin and endorphin levels which improves mood and reduces physical pain, and
- can actually fight heart disease.
But all the research and all the studies just go to prove what we instinctively feel. That laughter really is good for me. And for you!