On Your Health

Check back to the INTEGRIS On Your Health blog for the latest health and wellness news for all Oklahomans.

Improving Your Health With Laughter

When Laura Meissner of Oklahoma City was diagnosed with cervical cancer, she faced chemotherapy and radiation treatments as well as a radical hysterectomy. While treatment was hard for her, she found relief from something that was free, natural and easy for her. No joke!

“When I was going through cancer treatment, I found that optimism and keeping a sense of humor were helpful, not just for me, but for my medical team as well,” she says.

“Being able to laugh kept my blood pressure and general sense of terror at acceptable levels. Those inevitable days when you just can't, because you are too sick or too scared, I saw elevated blood pressure and it affected my ability to do what I needed to get better.”

Is laughter truly the best medicine? According to recent research, it can be.

Beneficial health effects of laughter

According to  Psychiatry Today, studies have shown the beneficial effects of laughter. For instance, laughing during a humorous film elevates the pain threshold and can help break the cycle between pain, sleep loss, depression and immunosuppression. Laughter has also been shown to lower blood pressure, epinephrine levels, glucose levels and increase glucose tolerance.

Even cancer trembles at the sound of mirth. The same studies have also shown that laughter helps in the recovery and prevention of cancer by increasing natural killer cell activity, encouraging gamma interferon and T cells to respond and improving your body’s defense against respiratory infections.

Why does this happen? Humor and laughter release endorphins to create both euphoric and calming effects.

The National Institute of Health has found that laughter increased lung capacity, strengthened abdominal muscles and increased immunoglobulin A, which is one of the major antibodies produced by the immune system.

In addition, they found that humor suppressed stress hormones and increased the natural killer cell activity for as much as 12 hours. The use of humor consistently resulted in improvements in pain thresholds and pain management together with humor was found to be more effective than pain management alone.

A hearty old belly laugh has immediate short-term effects on the body. The lungs, heart and muscles get a boost because laughter ups your intake of oxygen while also causing a decrease in blood pressure.

Laughing daily

The long-term effects are even more jovial. Having a good sense of humor and laughing daily can have the following effects.

  • Improve your immune system. Stress and negativity release cortisol and other stress hormones in the body, which can cause unhealthy responses. Laughter and positivity, however, release neuropeptides that fight off stress.
  • Improve your overall mood and satisfaction. Even in the worst situations, laughter can help people cope with grief and depression. On a daily basis, laughing reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression, especially when caused by a chronic illness.
  • Relieve pain. Laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers.

Adding humor to your life

Even the classic grouch can develop a funny bone. In fact, getting a sense of humor is easier than you think. Try these exercises to put a little more laughter in your life.

  • Surround yourself with fun. Reading comics and funny greeting cards or watching funny videos are easy ways to get a quick chuckle. Keep these laughter-inducing things around your home and office to help you giggle when you need to.
  • Share your laughter. Spend time with friends who are positive and funny. Make them laugh by telling funny stories or sharing jokes. Have a “joke of the day” tradition with your children or coworkers.
  • Try laughter exercises. Even a fake laugh can turn into spontaneous laughter.
  • Laugh in the face of fear. If you have a sudden fit of stress or anxiety, try stating your fears out loud and then laughing at them. Call your fears silly names or imagine them as a goofy character.

Humor and laughter have so much power to heal and renew the body. Humor can help you cope with problems, enhance your relationships and boost both physical and emotional health. Even better, this priceless medicine is fun, free and easy to use, so turn that frown upside down and add a few chuckles to your day.

Everyone at INTEGRIS wants to extend an invitation for you, and all Oklahomans, to enter into a health care relationship with our INTEGRIS family. Contact us today for your health care needs.