Just what you've been looking for - something that costs nothing and has no side effects, yet makes you feel better and bolsters your immune system.
What might that be?
You may be surprised to know that the answer is laughter.
According to the helpguide.org, laughter has the following benefits: It reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, elevates mood, boosts the immune system, and improves brain functioning. Another benefit not quite so easy to quantify is that laughter connects us to other people, and makes us more attractive to be around. This is beneficial because isolation is one of the worst things you can do for your health.
According to Dr. Stanley Tan, MD at Loma Linda University, "All neurohormones act like an orchestra and each instrument makes a particular note. Laughter makes the entire orchestra more melodious or balanced. In other words, laughter brings a balance to all components of the immune system." Who knew??
Well we all kind of did. A sense of humor is listed as a major component of resilience in seniors, and is also listed as one of the traits of "the Centenarian Personality." Those people 100 or older also exhibit the trait of being "stress-resistant." Could there be a connection? No doubt there is.
A classic example of the benefits of laughter is the case of Norman Cousins, who survived a potentially terminal and chronically painful disease and wrote about it in "Anatomy of an Illness." One of his formulas for recovery (after doing some independent research) was to watch hours of Marx Brothers movies every day and laugh.
"Laughter," Cousins said, "may or may not activate the endorphins or enhance respiration, as some medical researchers contend. What seems clear, however, is that laughter is an antidote to apprehension and panic."
According to a University of Maryland study, laughter seems to protect the heart in some way that isn't clearly understood, but was suggested in their research. Said Dr. Michael Miller, "We don't know yet why laughing protects the heart but we know that mental stress is associated with impairment of the endothelium, the protective barrier lining the blood vessels [which can lead ultimately to a heart attack]."
People who had had heart attacks were compared with people who had not. The people who'd had heart attacks were more likely to deal with an embarrassing situation by becoming hostile and angry rather than laughing, and were less likely to laugh even in a positive situation.
True laughter is incompatible with a hostile or angry stance - physiologically as well as emotionally - and much has been written about the affects of chronic hostility on our health.
Even faking a smile can help you relax. Try it. One scientist recommends putting a pencil crosswise in your teeth, making your mouth smile. Of course it would be a lot easier just to watch a funny TV show or video, play with a child, or spend some time with a friend or loved one who makes you laugh.
Perhaps the best reason to laugh is because it's just plain fun. Now, take a look at this site and let it be "catching": http://www.polaroid.com/laughter/index_reg.html.
©Susan Dunn, MA, Emotional Intelligence Coach, http://www.susandunn.cc. Coaching, Internet courses and ebooks around emotional intelligence for your personal and professional development and health. Mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org for FREE EQ ezine; put "ezine" for SL.
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