Laughter is One of the Best Medicines…& It’s Free!

Laughter is One of the Best Medicines…& It’s Free!

This time of year stress levels can rise as beneficiaries face increased Medicare and health plan costs for 2010, make choices on which health plan to switch to, enroll in, or disenroll from in Medicare’s annual election period, and prepare for the holidays. One easy way to reduce stress and strengthen health during this season that doesn’t involve health plans or doctor referrals is a “medicine” we all have. It’s also fun and free –it’s  laughter.

Research has shown that kids laugh about 400 times a day, and adults only about 15. Research also shows numerous benefits associated with laughter, including:

  • Helping to reduce stress
  • Enhancing the immune system
  • Strengthening cardiovascular functions
  • Oxygenating the body by boosting the respiratory system
  • Improving circulation
  • Toning muscles
  • Helping with digestion and constipation

How does laughter help in these areas?

In terms of enhancing our immune system, just the act of laughing itself, and the muscular contractions we experience when laughing, moves our lymph fluid, therefore boosting the immune system’s function. Moving lymph helps clear out old, dead waste products from our cells, tissues and organs. As our lymph system doesn’t have a separate pump, our body needs to move around in order to circulate our lymph fluid so our immune system can function properly. Laughter is one good way to do so.

In addition, when we laugh, we oxygenate our body by taking in large amounts of oxygen at both the cellular and organ level. Being one of the primary catalysts for biological energy for the human body, oxygen is absolutely necessary for sustaining life. It also has the effect of destroying cancer cells in its presence. Many parasites and bacteria don’t survive well in oxygen’s presence as well. To the extent we can circulate extra oxygen throughout our body, we can help prevent, or in some cases treat, diseases.

Oxygenating our body also increases our circulation. And the physical act of laughing exercises our abdominal muscles, giving a good internal massage to all our digestive organs and supporting healthy digestion.

Laughing also has several healing biochemical effects on our body, emotions and general outlook on life. Below is an excerpt from Mike Adams, author of the Five Habits of Health Transformation.

When you laugh, you generate a wealth of healing biochemicals. I’ve often stated that for every minute of laughter, you produce somewhere around $10,000 worth of healthy body chemistry, and what I mean is that if you had to go out and actually purchase these refined chemical compounds from labs or pharmaceutical companies, you would have to pay at least $10,000 for the very same chemistry that your brain is producing free of charge when you engage in laughter.

Some of these are brain-altering chemicals such as serotonin; others are immune-boosting chemicals such as interleukins. If you were to make a long list of all the chemicals created by engaging in healthy laughter, you would have quite a list of healthy body chemicals that would carry a hefty price tag if you purchased them retail. And yet, once again, you can create these chemicals for yourself at no cost by simply engaging in laughter.

You will find that these chemicals have extraordinary positive healing effects on your body and mind. They will boost immune system function; they will improve your outlook on life; they will tend to diminish any symptoms of depression; and because they help reduce stress, they will also prevent all of the various diseases and disorders that are caused by chronic stress.

With all these benefits, how can one start laughing more? One way is to just laugh, be more silly, watch funny movies, get together with a friend and tell funny stories or make up goofy dances. When working with your beneficiary clients, see if you can get them and yourself laughing just for the fun of it!

Laughter yoga also offers an easy venue for laughing with large groups of people. Keep learning from children and grandchildren. With children laughing at an average of 400 times a day, adults have a lot more laughing catch up to do!

Our blogger Karen J. Fletcher is CHA's publications consultant. She provides technical expertise, writing and research on Medicare, health disparities and other health care issues. With a Masters in Public Health from UC Berkeley, she serves in health advocacy as a trainer and consultant. See her current articles.