When I was a kid I used to start giggling so hard that I couldn’t stop. My parents would say that I had my “giggle box” turned over. I see kids getting their giggle boxes turned over once in a while and tonight I’m thinking about how good that is for them and how maybe adults need to laugh a little more. It’s okay to be silly. We’d all be healthier if we could just let loose and giggle. It’s not just may opinion, either. Long ago King Solomon of Israel said, “A merry heart doth good like a medicine but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” It seems that modern science agrees, too.
Laughter releases dopamine and endorphins into a person’s body and activates the pleasure pathways to the brain. If a person laughs hard enough and often enough, these pathways become easier and easier to access. and this may be a key to overcoming depression. Granted, it’s hard to laugh when you’re depressed, but one chuckle can lead to another. When we’re down it’s tough to pull ourselves out and surround ourselves with funny but doing just that can potentially cure us.
So many times when we are sick, I’ve come to believe that it isn’t the sickness that gets us down as much as it is the worry, anxiety, pain and fear that go along with the sickness, not to mention the stress that comes with dealing with mounting bills, hospital stays and coping with how to handle every day life. These things continue to worsen a person’s emotional, mental and physical health. That’s where laughter comes in. Deep belly laughter triggers endorphins in the body, which act sort of like natural painkillers.
Humor is as important to our health as eating right, getting enough sleep and exercising. George Burns, the famous comedian who lived to be over 100, attributed his long life to laughter. Many other centurions accredit laughter as one of the reasons for their longevity. You can’t take life too seriously, or it’ll take you out. I believe a person needs to laugh several hundred times a day. Psychoneuroimmunology is a field of research that is telling us that depression actually suppresses our immune systems. Laughter affects us exactly opposite of the way that stress does by decreasing epinephrine and cortisol levels. Researchers at Loma Linda University School of Medicine discovered that laughter also increases in germ-fighting cells.
Laughter ramps up your heart rate and circulation, and afterwards, the heart rate drops below average while the improved circulation continues. The body goes into a state of relaxation. In the same way that anger and stress can elevate your blood pressure and heart rate, laughter can lower it. Laughter also exercises your lungs and diaphragm. It creates vibrations that massage your internal organs. While stress and tension elevate stress hormones, tighten your muscles, constrict your blood vessels, upset your hormonal balance, and tax your immune system, laughter relieves tension, lowers stress hormones, improves hormonal balance and boosts your immune system.
I remember reading a Bible verse that talked about how the “joy” of the Lord is our strength. I do believe that evidence bears it out that joy which brings about laughter truly does give strength to our bodies. So, go ahead and get your giggle box turned over!