Too much of a good thing is bad for you.
There is always an exception to the rules and I would argue that, “laughing is the exception to this rule.”
Some researchers think laughter is the best medicine, and other researchers are not so sure.
We will take a look at both “sides of the coin” concerning laughter. However, one thing cannot be disputed…. laughing feels good!
Steve Wilson, MA, CSP, a psychologist, says, “I believe that if people can get more laughter in their lives they are a lot better off. They might be healthier too.”
Other researchers are not so sure if laughing is what makes people feel better. They believe it might just be the person’s sense of humor, positive attitude and being the “kind of person that other people want to be around” that makes all the difference.
There really isn’t a study with a control group that can prove one theory over the other.
It would probably not be possible if you instructed the control group hanging around their friends “not to laugh” and have them comply.
Finding an individual capable of “not laughing” for a few months is probably a hard thing to do. I wish they would ask me if I knew anyone that could do this. My old high school history teacher has never laughed a day in his life, they could use him!
“The definitive research into the potential health benefits of laughter just hasn’t been done yet,” says Robert R. Provine, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and author of Laughter: A Scientific Investigation.
One thing everyone can agree on is this: Laughter sure doesn’t hurt anybody (unless you ask someone with broken ribs)
What Happens When We Laugh?
- we change our physiology (stretch muscles throughout our face and body)
- we raise our pulse and blood pressure
- we breathe faster (sending more oxygen to our tissues)
- we increase blood flow
- we experience increased immune response – stress is a cause of “decreased immune response” and laughter alleviates stress!
- we have lower blood sugar levels (they conducted a study on this)
- we are more relaxed – probably from the blood flow and increase in oxygen in the bloodstream
- You sleep better – laughter has been proven to reduce pain in people with chronic pain conditions, allowing them to sleep better
Laughter is the best medicine, unless you are talking to someone with diabetes. Then, it’s insulin.
Is Laughter the Best Medicine
Is laughter good for you? Can it boost your energy? Not every scientist says so (I didn’t know my high school history teacher was also a scientist – but I guess he is).
“I don’t mean to sound like a curmudgeon, but the evidence that laughter has health benefits is iffy at best,” says one scientist.
He says that most studies of laughter have been small and not well conducted. He also says too many researchers have an obvious bias: they go into the study wanting to prove that laughter has benefits.
(This guy needs a happy pill)
“It’s not really clear that the effects of laughing are distinct from screaming,” he says.
Provine (the “sad scientist” I am talking about) says, “the most convincing health benefit he’s seen from laughter is its ability to dull pain.”
Numerous studies of people in pain or discomfort have found that when they laugh they report that their pain doesn’t bother them as much.
“It could be that a compelling drama would have the same effect,” he says. So, the evidence of laughter being the contributor to their pain relieve is not conclusive.
Studying the effects of laughing is not an easy thing to do
A study might show that people who laugh more are less likely to be sick. But, that might be because people who are healthy have more to laugh about. (OK, that is hilarious)
If you look at a group of people with the same disease, people who laugh more might have more energy. But, that could be because the people who laugh more have a personality that allows them to cope better.
So, it becomes very hard to say if laughter is actually an agent of change, or just a sign of a person’s underlying condition.
What we know for sure
- Laughter is social, so any health benefits might really come from being close with friends and family, and not the laughter itself.
- We are thirty times more likely to laugh when we’re with other people than when we’re alone. People who laugh a lot may just have a strong connection to the people around them. That might have health benefits by itself.
- Laughing more could make you healthier, but we don’t know for certain
- Laughter is contagious
- Some people snort when they laugh, which is always funnier than whatever was said or done (I do not do that though, for the record)
But we all know that laughing, being with friends and family, and being happy can make us feel better – even though sad scientists may not know why.
One thing is certain – laughter improves your quality of life.
The way you feel when you laugh is reason enough to do it – who cares what a doctor or scientist has to say about the matter.
Researchers in a study in 2008, found that the “anticipation of laughter” (e.g., when you think something is going to be funny) lowers your levels of the cortisol and the epinephrine stress hormones, as well as the stress hormone known as dopac.
This usually happens when you are listening to a joke and waiting for the punchline – unless the person that is telling the joke always screws up the punchline.
Guess what else
- Ten minutes or more of laughter alone burns more than 50 calories.
- All the more reason to laugh when you are eating cake!
Laughter is the best medicine, unless you are laughing for no reason – then, you need medicine.
Do you have a joke or funny story you could share with us to make us laugh? Please leave it in the comment section below!
Author: Philip Isaac
Philip Isaac is the founder of Electrified Mind. He is determined to reach the highest level of personal development as humanly possible by interacting with other world leaders through the Electrified Mind Podcast and absorbing all the knowledge they have to offer (you should join him). His overwhelming desire to make other people feel how he feels about life, drives him.