I just heard the funniest news about my cousin, a registered dietician who’s made a career helping people overcome life-threatening health issues. She’s now a certified Laughter Yoga Leader.
So much for goat yoga.
Seriously though, my cousin’s new vocation makes sense. I know I use humor to break the ice, bond with friends, and even win business. She’s coming at it from the health perspective, where science shows laughter has a ton of benefits for better physical and emotional functioning.
Take my strife, please
The idea of laughter curing what ails you isn’t new. Back in the 14th century, a surgeon named Henri de Mondeville reported that listening to jokes and silly stories appeared to help his patients recover. Plus, historical thought leaders on mind-body health, including philosopher Immanuel Kant, neurologist Sigmund Freud, and psychiatrist Wiliam Battie, all identified a good guffaw as an essential tool to combat illness.
More recently, research out of Stanford shows that involuntary, unforced “mirthful” laughter appears to support better cardiovascular function and lowers blood pressure. Other studies point to the idea that a good belly laugh may help boost the immune system, decrease stress, alleviate depression and anxiety, and reduce pain in cancer patients.
“While it’s still unclear exactly why or how laughter might be associated with health benefits, experts speculate that it works in part by relaxing muscles, enhancing circulation, and releasing endorphins in the brain.”
The key issue with the research is the same as it is with the realities of comedy: the kind of laughter varies widely, from authentic and involuntary to social and forced, and is hard to define.
Get in on the joke
Tickling your funny bone to an extent where it can positively impact your well-being is directly related to context. In fact, you’re 30 times more likely to laugh if you’re with somebody else than if you’re alone.
Live, love, laugh is clearly much more than your mom’s cheesy fridge magnet slogan. It’s a prescription for better health:
“Humor can create an environment that results in human connection, and connection results in a sense of psychological safety. When one is in that mode, your physiology works at its best.”
So go ahead and make like an upside-down flying duck, because quacking up is good for you. Lighten up, Francis — dad jokes never hurt anyone, especially coming from a mom. 😉
Giggling is the Best Medicine (Medium)