Why laughter really is the best medicine

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Recently, I read an interesting article from ComForCare, an in-home care service company, titled "7 Reasons Why Laughter Is Good For You."

Studies have shown that laughter connects people, helps to ease inherent burdens and makes the day more enjoyable. A good belly laugh releases stress, stimulates learning and enhances memory.

Bottom-line, laughing is a healthy activity. Here are seven reasons to LOL, or laugh out loud.

  1. Laughter triggers feel-good chemicals. Bursting into laughter stimulates endorphins. This releases dopamine in the brain, which promotes feelings of pleasure and happiness. It even relieves pain.
  2. Laughter helps learning. Accord-ing to research from the University College London, when people try to understand jokes, it activates parts of the brain important to learning and understanding.
  3. Laughter improves short-term memory. Research at Loma Linda University revealed older adults who watched 20 minutes of funny videos prior to memory recall tests did significantly better than adults who were asked to wait quietly. The researchers report laughter reduces stress levels, and when stress is lowered, memory improves. Making time to laugh may be especially helpful for older adults who are experiencing memory loss.
  4. Laughter engages the whole brain. Laughter sustains high-amplitude gamma waves throughout the entire brain. It provides the brain with a workout that promotes clear thinking, focus and thought integration. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies show laughter has brain effects similar to meditation.
  5. Laughter burns calories. While laughter alone isn't an aerobic workout, it requires more energy than sitting still. A Vanderbilt University study reported episodes of laughter use 10 to 20 percent more energy than sitting in a reclining position.

The duration and intensity of the laugh affect the amount of calories used. The energy expended laughing is comparable to sedentary activities such as light clerical work or playing a card game.

  1. Laughter makes exercise fun. Laughter both strengthens and relaxes muscles. According to a recent study, combining laughter with a physical activity program emphasizing strength, balance and flexibility improves older adults' mental health, aerobic endurance, confidence and motivation. "The combination of laughter and exercise may influence older adults to begin exercising and to stick with the program," noted Celeste Greene, lead author of the study.
  2. Laughter fosters relationships. Telling a joke might open the door to new relationships. An Oxford University study found when participants who did not know each other had good laugh together, they shared significantly more personal information. The research supports the premise that laughter encourages relationship development.

I've always been blessed to have friends who make me laugh. Laughing just makes me feel good. Have you ever noticed the people who make you laugh always have a smile on their face?

If you're ever in need of a mood-changing chuckle, you might tune in to one of your favorite sitcom re-runs for a guaranteed good laugh ("I Love Lucy" comes to mind).

Laughter is one of the best medicines available and it doesn't cost a nickel!

Joe Agee is the marketing and sales director for The Seabrook of Hilton Head. www.TheSeabrook.com

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