Jennifer Barham-FloreaniAs I sit by the pool on holidays with my family I realize that I could stress about the countless blog posts I wish I had been able to complete for you all OR I can laugh and be light-hearted about the ebb and flow of life…

Work pressures come and go, but so too do the ‘moments’ that life gives us to laugh wholeheartedly, to rest and relax. Here is a post on laughter that some of you may have read before but I think we can all do with a pleasant reminder to “chill-lax” (as my boys say) and to laugh more.

“I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose.”
—Woody Allen

Don’t you hate that — when someone makes you laugh when you are eating or drinking?? Having a good sense of humour though — even in moments like these — helps us to keep life in perspective. In fact laughing is a great remedy for stress, anxiety and a host of other things and I talk about it a lot in my  book Ticklish — New Ways To Help Your Child Learn, Love & Play.

According to Dr. William Fry, associate professor of clinical psychiatry at Stanford University, who has studied the effects of laughter for 30 years laughter increases the heart rate, improves blood circulation, and works muscles all over the body. Fry compares laughter to “inner jogging,” and claims laughing 100 times a day is the equivalent of 10 minutes of rowing.1 That’s a lot of laughing!

The point here is – “A good time to laugh is whenever you can!”

In Humor: Its Origin and Development2 the author suggests that when used skillfully, humour in therapy can:

  • create a more relaxed atmosphere
  • encourage communication on sensitive matters
  • be a source of insight into conflict
  • help overcome a stiff and formal social style
  • facilitate the acting out of feelings or impulses in a safe, non-threatening way

These are wonderful points to consider particularly with our parenting. Having a playful relationship with our children (free of sarcasm) promotes connection and feelings of safety – allowing us to be spontaneous and lighthearted. Laughter allows us to connect with loved ones –label or no label. In fact for developmentally challenged children laughter is critical and I have outlined many important physiological responses when we laugh.

1. You’ll feel happier

Laughter is credited with increasing the release of endorphins (a feel good hormone), the body’s natural painkillers and protectors against depression. Although the physiology of laughter and play are far from understood, we do have good reason to believe that the secretion of endorphins in the brain affects virtually every system of the body, and, of course, upon behaviour.3

2. You’ll feel healthier

Clinical studies have shown that laughter decreases serum cortisol levels, increases T lymphocytes, and increases the number of natural killer cells. Put simply, these results suggest that laughter decreases stress hormones and stimulates the immune system.4

3. Helps with healing

In pediatric hospital settings, unlike adult care, the use of humour has typically not been limited to patients with specific diagnoses; rather it has been used for all ages and stages of children and youth, regardless of the nature of their illness or reason for hospitalization because it has been found to be so beneficial.

In summary; laughter causes us to release endorphins make us feel better, improve our mood and increase pleasure. When endorphins are low, people feel anxious; they are also more aware of pain.

4. Laughter, like exercise, is a much better way to feel fantastic

The alternative may make you fat, sick and tired. People with low endorphin levels have an appetite for fat and fatty foods, such as chips, cheese, chocolate, creamy sauces, margarine, butter and fried chicken for example. After eating some fat, they will notice a change in mood, feeling more pleasure. This feeling is related to a higher concentration of endorphins. Exercise, by releasing fat from within the body, raises endorphins and causes the same mood changes.5 Isn’t knowledge powerful? Next time you feel like eating fatty nutrition poor foods — choose to go for a run or a brisk walk. An effective way to beat cravings!

Quotes that make us laugh:

“Even if there is nothing to laugh about, laugh on credit.”
—Author Unknown
“Dad always thought laughter was the best medicine, which I guess is why several of us died of tuberculosis.”
—Jack Handey
“When people are laughing, they’re generally not killing each other.”
—Alan Alda
“Whoever said ‘laughter is the best medicine’ never had gonorrhea.”
—Kat Likkel and John Hoberg
“Seven days without laughter makes one weak.”
—Mort Walker
“Laughter is a tranquilizer with no side effects.”
—Arnold Glasow
“Laughter is an orgasm triggered by the intercourse of sense and nonsense.”
—Author Unknown
“We do have a zeal for laughter in most situations, give or take a dentist.”
—Joseph Heller

 

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From the desk of…

Dr Jennifer Barham Floreani
B.App.Clin.Sci, B.Chiropractic

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References

1) Fry, W., & Salameh, W. (Eds.). (1987). Handbook of humor and psychotherapy: Advances in the clinical use of humor. Sarasota, FL: Professional Resources. Exchange, Inc.
2) In Humor: Its Origin and Development. McGhee, P. Freeman Pty.(1979).
3) Growing young, laughter, play and other life giving basic behavioral needs. Montague, A. (1991). An address to the Power of Laughter and Play Conference, Institute for the Advancement of Human Behavior, Stanford, CA.
4) Berk, L. (1989) Neuroendocrine and stress hormone changes during mirthful laughter. American Journal of Medical Sciences, 298(6), 390—396
5) Full and Fullfilled. The Science of Eating to Your Full.Nan Allison and Carol Beck. 2000. AB Books Nashville, TN 37204

 

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