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Health benefits of laughter

This page created 17 June 2013

By Mary Pagett (ADAVIC Volunteer)


I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, "Where's the self-help section?"
She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.

If the police arrest a mime, do they tell him he has the right to remain silent?

If you ate pasta and antipasto, would you still be hungry?
Did I hear a chuckle? Have you at least got a smile on your face?

What happens to us when we smile or laugh? Apparently, not only do we enjoy the moment, but according to some studies, it actually makes us healthier! According to a small research study on diabetic patients (Live Science, it was proven that, two months into the study, the ‘stress indicators’ of a group that was exposed to 30 minutes of humour had decreased. Other health signs had also improved such as HDL cholesterol, and there was also a 66% decrease in the “C-reactive proteins, a marker of inflammation and cardiovascular disease”.
More study is needed in this area, however they go on to say that even the anticipation of humour can bring about a physiological change. In fact any positive emotion can bring about these changes including optimism and hope.
So how do we bring laughter into our lives? Most of us can remember happy moments in our childhood where we laughed at the silliest things – making somebody jump out of their skin, playing a practical joke or even just making funny faces. As we get older, life becomes a little more serious, and often our demeanor follows suit.
My grandchildren have brought humour back into my life! Not until that happened, did I realise how serious I had become. I’m not suggesting you all go and pressure your children to give you grandchildren - there are other options. The plethora of DVDs that are available to purchase at reasonable rates can bring some humour into your life. Select a few funny films or TV series - I have episodes of Frasier, Fawlty Towers and Seinfeld to name a few, but there are so many others. My  ritual is that I play one episode a night (sometimes more than one), usually just before I go to bed, because it gives me an injection of happy endorphins that seems to put me in a good frame of mind, where I end the day with a smile on my face.
Other ways of bringing humour into your life – attend a live comedy show – organise a group of friends to go, the anticipation and planning will only add to the good feelings.  Organise catch ups with a mixed gender group of friends. We all know the male gender think differently from us (Men are from Mars…), however their sense of humour (silliness?) will end up making you laugh. Catch up with your girlfriends of course, but every now and then have a catch up and invite the boys – the laughter will flow.
And of course there’s the telling of jokes. Before the internet, joke telling was a real art. We couldn’t wait to tell our friend or family members the joke that you’d just heard. Telling the joke, waiting with anticipation on their reaction, the laughter that would burst from them, or the slow chuckle that evolves as the head nods as they slowly ‘get it’. Now we press the forward button on the email, and instead of being able to watch their reaction, you’re anticipation now is that maybe you have totally annoyed them by filling up their in-box with rubbish!
A guy is sitting at home when he hears a knock at the door.
He opens the door and sees a snail on the porch.
He picks up the snail and throws it as far as he can.
Three years later, there is a knock on the door. He opens it and sees the same snail. the snail says, "What the hell was that all about?"
A man has his car full of penguins. He drives past a policeman, but the policeman stops him. He says. "Hey, you! Yeah, you! You should take those penguins to the zoo!"
The man does that.
The next day in the same spot, the man still has the penguins. Once again he drives past the policeman. "Hey, I thought I told you to take those penguins to the zoo!"
"I did," replies the man. "We had so much fun that we’re going to the beach today!"
C’mon…that’s sooooooo funny!  I can hear you laughing! Yes, your shoulders are shaking! You are reading the jokes again, allowing yourself to enjoy this unusual, but nice, feeling. And now you’re anticipating how the next person will feel once you tell them the joke.  Has it been a long time since you’ve even told a joke? Can you remember how? Will they laugh? Try it. Even if you get a groan…tell another one immediately. You’ll soon see. They’ll lighten up and laugh along with you.
Laughter is contagious. It’s true! I have been to a movie where there have only been a few people in the cinema, and even though the film was funny, one tended to keep the laughter under control because there seemed to be a huge silence filling the space. But see that same movie where the cinema is full, and you’ll find the whole cinema filled with laughter. And as you leave the theatre, people seem to want to make eye contact, to chat and laugh and comment on the movie and the atmosphere…it just seems that there’s a ‘whole lotta luv’ filling the space.


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