Recently my husband and I headed for an overnight in Chicago. We stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel, ate at a wonderful restaurant, walked the Magnificent Mile (and spent absolutely no money), and took in a show at the Chicago Theater.
We saw the comedian, Gabriel Iglesias, who is currently on tour. It’s been a long time since I have laughed that hard for that long. I laughed so hard all my tears leaked out, literally, they all leaked out, and I felt so good.
Our daughter had her first overnight away from Mom and Dad as well; she spent the weekend wrapping Grandma and Papa (particularly Papa) around her little finger.
For everyone involved the weekend was filled with smiles, giggles, hugs, walks in the fresh air and sunshine and lots of laughter. And that is good, because laughter is good for you. It is one of the most primitive vocalizations known, and many primates including gorillas and orangutans, are known to laugh. Laughter is controlled in part by the limbic system of the brain, the part of the brain that is occupied with survival, things like finding food and the fight or flight responses. Given that laughter originates in part from the part of the brain involved in basic survival, I would say that laughter is an essential part of life.
I have heard people describe laughter as “internal jogging” because of its health effects, and laughter does have significant physiological effects. So significant, that the study of the physiology of laughter is its own science, gelotology. Laughter seems to reduce the circulation of stress hormones, and some research indicates an increase in immune cells and some antibodies during laughter, suggesting that laughter stimulates our immune systems.
Several studies have linked laughter to vasodilatation and lower blood pressure. And let’s face it, if you have a really good long belly laugh, it wears you out—it is like internal jogging. One study conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland in 2000 found that people with heart disease responded less humorously to everyday situations than people without heart disease. While the study showed only correlation and not cause and effect, it is an intriguing result, given the fact that laughter does decrease inflammation and blood pressure, two physiological effects associated with cardiac health. Perhaps the cardiologist’s prescription for the heart patient in the future will be this: a daily belly laugh.
When my husband and I returned from Chicago, Grandma and Papa were singing the praises of our daughter, telling us how good she was, and how her smile just seemed to light up everyone around her. “Her smile is so contagious!” they said. And before we left our daughter was in the living room giggling like crazy while Papa would hide Floppy Dog. Before long, we were all laughing at their antics.
Laughter is really good for you. And, I for one probably don’t spend enough time doing it. Given the health effects and the fact that it’s just plain fun, I am going to try to bring more laughter into my life.
So, I’m pasting that goofy grin on my face. I hope you join me so we can be LOL together.
© 2010 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.