Can Laughter Benefit Your Health?
DO YOU find that the daily pressures of life cause you to become tense and make it difficult for you to relax? Does that at times contribute to a feeling of tiredness and depression? If so, laughter may be an excellent medicine for you. It tends to relax a person, thereby lessening tension and lifting his spirits.
The emotions are known to have a pronounced effect upon the body. Anger and rage, for example, can contribute to or even cause such ailments as asthma, skin diseases, ulcers and digestive troubles.
On the other hand, the relaxed and jovial frame of mind associated with laughter can shield one from the bad effects of harmful emotions. True, even persons given to rage and morbid fears may laugh at times, but their laughter does not bring lasting relief to them. The real benefits come to persons who maintain a cheerful disposition despite adversity.
There are those who believe that the very action of laughing in itself is beneficial to the body. The abdomen having no hollow spaces, the up-and-down movement of the diaphragm in laughter is said to affect the internal organs much like wholesome exercise. As a result they would function better, circulation would be improved and wastes would be discharged more readily from the body. Hence laughter can contribute toward helping the body to ward off disease.
The heart is one of the vital organs thought to benefit from the massage it gets from laughter. This would mean that laughter can assist the heart to accomplish its amazing task of pumping blood through about 100,000 miles of blood vessels, thereby bringing nourishment and oxygen to the cells. It is significant that laughter has been noted to affect blood pressure. According to one study, hearty laughter was found to lower high blood pressure or increase low blood pressure by ten or more points.
The largest and most important gland in the body, the liver, is likewise believed to benefit from hearty laughter. In young people the liver is kept in good shape by exercise in the form of running, jumping and throwing. As a person gets older, hearty laughter can be an aid in this regard.
Considering the many vital functions the liver performs, we can appreciate how valuable laughter may be for us. The liver removes certain wastes and poisons from the blood. It transforms some sugar from the blood into glycogen. The glycogen is then stored in the liver and released as sugar at such time as it is needed in the blood. The liver also stores vitamins and minerals, and both makes and stores such blood proteins as albumin, globulin and fibrinogen. Another substance manufactured by the liver is bile. This fluid aids in the digestive process.
The fact that laughter has been found to improve digestion evidently indicates that it increases the flow of bile. Then, too, most of the digestive process takes place in the small intestine. Thus the small intestine also apparently benefits from the massaging it gets through laughter.
Yet another benefit: Massaging of the large intestine through laughter is said to aid the large intestine to rid the body of fecal material.
A Balanced View
Though beneficial, laughter, as wise King Solomon stated, has its “time.” (Eccl. 3:1, 4) Even good things, when indulged in to excess, can be detrimental. Laughter is no exception. Observes the Illustrated Medical and Health Encyclopedia (page 1345): “Laughter is, then, like every other function of the body, a mechanism that should be used enough but never too much. Overexercise or overuse of any function of the human body is not conducive to its best development.”
Excessive laughter can at times lead to vomiting. Especially in the case of children, too much laughter can cause the sphincter muscles of the bladder and the rectum to relax suddenly, with embarrassing results. Some doctors even believe that laughing is dangerous for those suffering from heart or upper respiratory afflictions.
Of course, such adverse physical effects from laughter are relatively rare. There is a more vital reason for controlling laughter. For one thing, laughter should be controlled when it is wholly inappropriate to the occasion. Thoughtless laughter can grate on the ears of others. Rather than proving to be a source of encouragement, such laughter tends to discourage others. The Bible compares it to the noisy crackling of thorns under a pot.—Eccl. 7:6.
There are times when we must take a sober view of our life. If we note that we are wasting too much time in frivolous laughter and not making a good name by doing fine works, we have reason to be vexed with ourselves, to be sorry for our course of action and change. This will make our heart better, as was recognized by wise King Solomon.—Eccl. 7:3.
To be a source of encouragement we should strive to have intense feeling for others, rejoicing or mourning at the appropriate time and occasion. Unselfishly we would want to rejoice when good comes to others and they are bubbling over with joy. At the same time we should be alert to opportunities to comfort those who have experienced adversity. How inappropriate it would be to forget them and carry on in a lighthearted way!
Laugh when it is fitting to do so. But, even more importantly, cultivate a pleasant and joyful disposition. This, rather than mere laughter for laughter’s sake, will make you a source of encouragement to others and will benefit you mentally, physically and emotionally.