What we can laugh at, we can survive….What we can laugh at does not hold us captive with fear. — Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, March 25, 2020
I probably don’t need to tell you that laughter feels good. But it is also good for you. The saying that “laughter is the best medicine” is no joke.
Here are 3 reasons why laughter is the best medicine.
(1) Laughter Releases Your Body’s Natural Painkillers
According to neuroscientist Sophie Scott, who has studied laughter for over 18 years, one of the big benefits of laughter is that
It feels really good to laugh. You get a change in the uptake of the naturally circulating endorphins, and those are the body’s painkillers. You get a measurable increase in your ability to tolerate pain.
Over time, laughter can decrease the body’s production of cortisol, a hormone released by the adrenal glands into the bloodstream at times of stress.
(2) Laughter Facilitates More Oxygen Into Your System
Breathing is automatic most of the time, and that’s a good thing. Imagine if you had to consciously think about every breath you took all day?
But because we don’t think about our breath most of the time, we may take our breathing for granted. Until we have difficulty breathing. You may not realize that when you’re feeling stressed, or even working with extreme focus, you are more likely to hold your breath.
And even when we do breathe “normally” we often don’t breathe fully.
As explained on Laughteruniversityonline.com:
To keep the lungs healthy and provide enough oxygen for the body to perform at peak levels, one needs to take deeper breaths and flush the stale air from the lungs. A normal inhalation fills just 25% (tidal volume) of the total lung capacity. The remaining 75% (residual volume held in the lower 2/3’s of our lungs) remains filled with old stale air. Respiration becomes even shallower when compounded by stress.
Many of us are constantly seeking to maximize our potential. You can’t maximize your potential of your mind until you maximize the potential of your lungs. The brain and your organs depend on oxygen to survive. Depriving your system of oxygen causes it to shut down.
Fresh oxygen, the breath that moves through you, is what defines life. The yogis call this prana. In Chinese Medicine it’s called Qi (pronounced chi), the Japanese call it Ki. Your breath is your life force energy.
When you laugh, whether voluntary (i.e., forcing yourself to laugh) or involuntary (i.e., you laugh because something is funny), you facilitate full diaphragmatic breathing. Laughter helps to facilitate longer exhalations, which allows your lungs to push out the residual air and create space for fresh oxygen.
You may notice that when you laugh hard, sometimes you start coughing. This is the body’s way of loosening whatever is stuck in the lungs and clearing it out.
Laughter literally cleanses the lungs.
(3) Laughter Nourishes the Soul
There are other ways to facilitate deeper breathing. For example, one of the eight limbs of yoga is called pranayama — controlled breathing. This is a practice of breathwork. The asana practice — the physical practice of yoga poses — also facilitates deeper breathing. Sitting in stillness and focusing on your breath will also help you cultivate a deeper and fuller breath.
But nothing beats a good belly laugh. When you laugh hard you feel nourished from the inside out. Your soul feels refreshed. Think about this time we’re in, and look at how much we crave laughter. From silly memes to coronavirus parodies to stand-up comedy, we want to laugh.
Interesting to note that one Hebrew word for breath is ne-she-ma which is very similar to ne-sha-ma, which means soul.
I realize it may seem there’s not much to laugh about these days. We are all scared and grieving.
And that’s all the more reason to laugh.
Laughter truly is the best medicine, and we need to heal.
What is making you laugh these days? Do you have a favorite comedian or meme? Have you checked out the coronavirus parodies on YouTube? Please share in the comments. Let’s spread the funny so we can collectively heal.