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Medicinal Laughter
August 2, 2021 at 7:00 AM
by Tiffany Nolan

When is the last time you had a good laugh? My personal favorite is the deep kind where your face hurts and it's coming from the pit of your stomach. An added extra is having to catch your breath in-between whaling while watching your aunt run to the bathroom. Those are the best kinds! Do you make it a point so loosen up and be silly or get others to laugh? Maybe turn on some comedy to experience some light heartedness? I don’t know about you but I love to laugh. It makes me feel good. It turns my mood around. Even when I’m around someone else who laughing, its contagious! I want to laugh with them. There’s something to this- let’s dive in!

They say “laughter is the best medicine” and I believe there’s something to that. For starters laughing decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells. It also can improve cardiovascular health, reduce anxiety, and create a sense of safety. When we laugh we are swapping out cortisol for dopamine, oxytocin and endorphins. If you aren’t familiar with these here’s a simple breakdown. Dopamine can enhance learning, motivation, and attention. Oxytocin is known as a “bonding chemical” that creates a feeling of relatedness. Endorphins trigger feelings of pleasure. Can you see where we are going with this? Feel GREAT chemicals all resulting from some chuckles... I’m here for this. But there is more, laughter impacts us physically too. Laughter increases your oxygen intake, decreases blood pressure and relaxes muscular tension.

Turns out there is such a thing as Laughter Therapy. Laughter Therapy came about in the late 1970’s when doctors where studying the effects. However, it did not become main stream until Dr. Madan Kataria developed laughter yoga in Mumbai and set up the first laughter club in 1995. Laughter Therapy has is for everyone and can be used for mental health patients to elderly, to cancer fighting patients. Everyone can benefit and if you're unsure keep this in mind: children laugh about 400 times per day while adults manage roughly 15. Laughter Therapy teaches that we don’t only get to laugh when we are happy but to laugh in the face of anger, stress or anxiety. Even forced laughter can lift your mood. Have you ever forced yourself to laugh? What about allowed yourself to laugh? More and more I believe as we age we are told to be serious and laughter doesn’t fit into that. But it can and should, plus you’ll be happier and healthy for it!

Are you aware the pharmaceutical industry prescribed 70.9 million antidepressants in 2018. It’s no surprised that these drugs are highly addicting and easily accessible but why reach for a pill instead of laughing? Different

degrees of mental health situations aside, popping a pill out of laziness is a disservice to your body, mind and spirit. Antidepressants temporarily help to relieve symptoms not fix the core issue, not to mention the long list of side effects including major neurological disease, weight gain, and heart dysfunctions. Let’s move on.

Laughing can come in many forms ranging from belly laugh to cackle to a suppressed giggle but we are not the only ones laughing. Sixty five different species laugh. Other mammals such as primates, foxes, whales and various bird species laugh. Though these “laughs” might not mean the same as it does for us the sounds can be quite similar. Well, there you have it. Next time you are feeling down, getting sick, or stressed out- throw on something humorous and let the laughing commence. Keep growing, learning and recalibrating!