I really need to laugh more. I just wrote an article on the healing power of laughter for Arthritis Self-Management, Diabetes Self-Management’s sister publication, and wow! I knew laughter was good for you, but I had no idea how good. It’s a wonder drug. I know I was saying the same thing about exercise a few weeks ago (“Let’s Get Moving”) but laughter is just as good.
Laughter lowers your blood pressure and helps your heart beat more smoothly. It relieves pain and reduces inflammation. It helps your immune system fight germs but leave your healthy tissue alone. That’s really important to a person like me, because I have multiple sclerosis. My immune system is tearing my nerves up, so if laughter will help it stop, I really need some.
If I had diabetes, laughter would really help that, too. Studies show that laughing lowers your levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Cortisol increases insulin resistance, while adrenaline tells your liver to pump more glucose into your blood. So laughter can probably help lower blood glucose and keep it down for quite a while.
OK then, we want to laugh more. But how do we do that when life is full of pain, sadness, and frustration? Here are some ideas I found:
TV and media: There are lots of comedies out there, both at the theater, on video, on the Internet, and right on your TV or radio. If something is only slightly funny, watching it may actually frustrate you, but watching truly hilarious movies and shows is an easy way to get laughter into your life. You can also read humorous books or comic books on a regular basis.
Laugh with friends: Laughter is contagious. Studies show people are 30 times more likely to laugh with others than alone. Going to a movie or comedy club with friends is a great way to get more laughter in your life. Having friends over for a party or game night is also a great setup for laughter and other good feelings.
Find humor in your life: Look for the humor in everyday experiences, even the frustrating ones. With this attitude, you may also find yourself being more lighthearted and silly, giving yourself and those around you more to laugh about.
Spend time with children: They laugh a lot, and they do funny things. If you don’t have children in your life, perhaps you can volunteer at a day care center or preschool. If you can’t find children, kittens or puppies are a second-best substitute.
Certified Laugh Leader Bev Bender says that studies have found that faked laughter also provides the benefits that laughing at humor does. She leads programs in the San Francisco Bay Area where people get together in groups and just laugh on cue. “I tell people to fake it until you make it,” she says. “Often, the fake merriment may lead to real smiles and laughter.” Dr. Madan Kataria started “laughter clubs” in India and they have now spread all over the world.
So I’m going to try some of these things, and I hope you’ll try some with me. I think I’ll join one of Bev’s laughing clubs—they have them all over, and you can find one near you at www.laughteryoga.org or www.worldlaughtertour.com
Have you had any experiences with laughter as medicine? Do you get enough laughter in your life? How could you see yourself getting more? Please post your questions and comments below.