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How to Laugh Your Way to Better Health

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You're probably familiar with the old adage “laughter is the best form of medicine”; while this phrase stems from a comforting and happy notion, there is actually a solid amount of scientific evidence behind it. Laughing can produce positive effects in your body that can benefit your health. Though laughter might not be the cure for cancer, it can still contribute to overall longevity and provide some other enhancements to your health. Let's take a closer look at how laughing can help you live a healthier life.

Experience Exercise-like Benefits

According to Steve Wilson, MA, CSP, a psychologist and laugh therapist, the physiological effects that occur in your body as you laugh are similar to those that happen during exercise. Laughing causes you to stretch muscles and improves the amount of air you breathe that is rich in oxygen. In addition, the Mayo Clinic says that when you laugh, you're stimulating your brain, lungs and heart, and also increasing the number of endorphins that your brain releases. Each of these effects are experienced when you work out or exercise, which signifies that laughing could technically be considered a mild form of exercise. In addition, a study from Vanderbilt University showed that laughing for 10-15 minutes can burn up to 50 calories. However, this does not mean that you should replace your typical gym workouts with a laughter session. The “workout” effects of laughing are so minor, they are not enough to provide significant benefits for staying in shape.

Relieve Stress and Anxiety

You've probably experienced moments where you're incredibly stressed out, but then a funny commercial or a joke spoken by your friend seems to instantly lift your mood and help you to feel lighter. Instances like this point to the notion that laughter can lower stress hormone production in your body. According to Charlene Pattillo, BSN, RN, OCN and Joanne Itano, PhD, RN, OCN, the amount of cortisol and epinephrine, two stress hormones in your body, tend to lower when you experience laughter. Excessive amounts of these stress hormones can lead to a reduction in the effectiveness and fighting power of your immune system; on the contrary, laughing can lower these hormones, so it only follows that a bout of laughing may be able to contribute to enhancing your immunity. 

Boost Your Immune System and Longevity

An article in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine shows that laughter and humor are two factors that may play a role in increasing natural killer cell levels, which are significant parts of your immune system and are responsible for fighting off infected and maybe even cancerous cells. A bout of laughter may also be able to boost your body's production of salivary immunoglobulin A (IgA), which is an essential antibody that defends your respiratory system from bacteria and infections, says Pattillo and Itano. The psychological effects laughter has on your brain may also be able to contribute immune-boosting properties. The mind-body connection is real, and a negative mindset can drag down your body's ability to fight sickness; therefore, by taking part in a laughing session, your body and mind will experience a kick in endorphins and help to brighten your mood and improve your mentality. 

A good, positive mindset often equals a stronger, more successful immune system and even improved longevity. A study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology demonstrated how having a humorous perspective (with laughter) on life and the world can be beneficial for your health. In the study, conducted over seven years, 54,000 Norwegians were studied, and the results showed that those who had a humorous outlook on life were 35 percent more likely to have lived to the end of the study than those who viewed life without humor. In addition, those who were diagnosed with cancer within the time frame of the study were shown to have higher survival rates if they maintained a sense of humor compared to those who didn't have a sense of humor.

Find Ways to Laugh More Each Day

One added benefit for laughing is that it doesn't require a set amount of time each day. Simply try enjoying a bit more humor in your life to experience the positive effects of laughter. Read a few silly jokes online, or laugh along to an episode of your favorite sitcom to start oxygenating your body and mind and kicking your mood up a notch. For a more social and physically active way to engage in laughing, try attending a laughter yoga class. These classes were designed by a medical doctor from India, Dr. Madan Kataria, and they are meant to provide a physical and mental boost induced by laughter. 

Adding a bit more humor and laughter to your life can be a great thing. Try to crack a smile and have a laugh every day for a boost to your health and mood. Thanks for stopping by eVitamins, and come back tomorrow for more health news!

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