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Getting Serious about Laughter

January 13, 2014
Laughter

Laughter

One of the things I find myself doing less of than I used to is laughing. When this happens it is a sign to me that I’m taking life too seriously. I don’t know why I tend to do this, but I do – take life and myself too seriously at times.

Reversing the perspective on this, my ability to maintain a sense of humor and laugh more often is a very positive feature. It helps me to keep things in their proper perspective whenever I look for the upside or the humorous side of things.

Readers Digest Covers

Readers Digest Covers

And, it is FUN! Years ago I researched about some of the benefits of laughter – sort of like a take-off of the old Readers Digest title of one of their humor / joke sections called “Laughter the best Medicine.”

There seems to be a lack of definitive research done regarding the potential health benefits of laughter, at least that is what many experts say. In his book “Laughter: A Scientific Investigation,” Professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Maryland, Robert R. Provine acknowledges how difficult it is to isolate laughter from qualities such as a good sense of humor or a positive attitude that also make people feel better. It also makes definitive research difficult because when people routines demonstrate a positive attitude and a good sense of humor, they tend to earn a lot of support from friends and family and these factors too, are hard to separate when attempting definitive research.

Horse and Cart

Horse and Cart

Maybe we need to work this one backwards by putting the cart before the horse. Let me explain. There are most certainly definitive things that happen to our body physiologically speaking, when we laugh.

• We breathe faster – which sends more oxygen to the tissues in our body.
• Our pulse and blood pressure go up
• The muscles throughout our body (primarily in our face) stretch
• We burn calories – According to Maciej Buchowski, a researcher from Vanderbilt University, roughly 50 calories burned for a 10-15 minute laughing session. And if you find a way to combine body movement, such as waving your arms with the laughter, your heart rate is treated for a real boost.

While we can definitively study the body’s reaction and response to laughter, it is the cause and effect component that makes laughter research so hard to take seriously. People with a more scientific nature and orientation ask whether other activities might not yield the exact or very similar results. What if we replaced time laughing with time screaming loudly, or what if instead of laughing, we watched an intense drama?

This is the conclusion I draw. I like to laugh. I miss it when I find too much time has gone by without my laughing enough. I like how I feel when I laugh and I like making other people laugh. So when all is said and done, it doesn’t matter to me if it can be measured and reproduced in specific results in a laboratory. I am going to laugh more and find more joy because I choose to, even without a prescription!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

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From → Mental Health

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