Is Laughter the Way to Better Health?

LaughterRemember the days when your life was so carefree you allowed yourself to just get lost in the moment and the laughter.  You know, just fully immersing yourself in the joy and feeling of the NOW! In that moment there was nothing else more important than what was happening, and no doubt that allowed you to have an open and free mind, leading the way to an ease of laughter.  I know this was once the case for most of you, and no doubt going about life this way allowed you to laugh and smile a lot more than you do now.

For most of us who are wrapped up in the stress that we think is life – work, chores, public transit, traffic, pedestrians, cyclists, store line ups, and a constant bombardment of emails and text messages – I’m sure it has been a long time since you consistently felt at ease enough to LOL frequently and get totally lost in your laughter, not just the regular polite sniff and huff laughter common in everyday conversations, but being totally engrossed with laughter maybe even with a little uncontrolled snort at the end. Mark Sission even told us that laughter is one of the 16 Things You Should Never Stop Doing.

Regardless of how long it’s been since you really let loose and had a good laugh, or how much you laugh every day, I’m sure you know how good it feels to really get in a good solid laugh.  Well, what I am going to show you is how that good feeling actually relates to beneficial physiological effects in your body, effects that lead to a decrease in disease, an increase in a healthy youthful complexion, and an increased life expectancy.

In this day and age, I am sure you are all aware of the damages that stress has on your body; however, I would still strongly advise you to read “9 Steps to Perfect Health – #6: Manage You Stressby Chris Kresser for a solid understanding.  What I am sure you may not know, because there is just less evidence out there about this, but positive emotions actually have the opposite effect on your body – obviously, a great example of a positive emotion is laughter.

Oxidative Stress and Inflammation

Since it directly contributes to inflammation, oxidation stress in our bodies has a huge negative influence on our health and can arguably contribute to pretty much any disease related to chronic inflammation; the list of which is growing and growing as we speak.  Everything from cancer, to diabetes, to neurodegeneration is now considered at the very least partly due to chronic inflammation.  Why do you think we are told to eat plenty of antioxidant containing foods?  Also, for all us superficial individuals out there, oxidative stress has also been shown to be one of, if not the number 1, contributor to the age related changes in our skin (4).  So, not to be obvious, but if our antioxidant system function is low, we will not be able to neutralize the reactive oxygen species in our bodies, leading to greater oxidative stress, an increase in the risk and progression of inflammatory diseases, and an increase in the age related changes in our skin

Laughter

What is interesting though is that laughter actually reduces the level of reactive oxygen species in our body by increasing our total antioxidant system (1).  Reactive oxygen species cause oxidative stress in our bodies, and our antioxidant system is basically the systems that neutralize these pesky reactive oxygen species (1).  Via this same or very similar mechanism, laughter has also been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (2), Type II diabetes (3), and the age related changes in our skin, which as us ancestral health fanatics know, are all related to chronic inflammation.  There is also evidence that laughter reduces cortisol levels, reduces tumor immunity, suppresses allergic reactions, and increases growth hormone concentrations (super important for those of us wanting to gain some muscle) (3).

Conclusion

Well, I did not do any super extensive research for this post and you will also note that some of my references are reviews and I did not review the references listed in these articles themselves.  that would have been ideal, but time is limited and I think it would be hard to argue that laughter would not have a positive effect on almost every condition.  So that being said, I would also expect that there is a great deal more evidence out there showing that laughter has a positive effect on the progression and risk for any inflammatory diseases, the outward signs of ageing being one of them.

So in the end, I will laugh, I will laugh often, I will laugh hard, I will laugh intensely, and I will laugh uncontrollably as much as I possibly can!  Maybe I will laugh for no reason at all, maybe because of a funny show, maybe because I am stressed or annoyed; but regardless, I will laugh for REAL and hopefully you will to!

Sincerely,

The Barefoot Golfer

 

References:

1.) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=Salivary%20free%20radical-scavenging%20activity%20is%20affected%20by%20physical%20and%20mental%20activities 

2.) http://www.psychosomaticmedicine.org/content/71/4/446.long3

3.) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19450597 

4.) http://www.zsd.si/ACTA/PUBLIC_HTML/acta-apa-12-2/2.pdf

 

2 Comments

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