“A merry heart does good like a medicine,” is a quote from the Book of Proverbs that is backed up by all the modern sciences. Raising a family can be exasperating beyond belief. That is why the team behind the Canberra Declaration believe you must never lose your sense of humour.
I have often said that Dads must be the laugh leaders in my weekly Dads4Kids newsletters.
To drive that point home, let me give you “Ten reasons to keep laughing” and keep your family laughing. Watch this Video “Dad at the Comedy Barn,” if you want to laugh your way through these ten reasons!
- Laughing Makes You Feel Good
“We don’t laugh because we are happy, we’re happy because we laugh.” William James
When you laugh or your family laughs, happy hormones are released. Medical experts believe that laughter has the power to heal. When we laugh, we encourage our bodies to release hormones that increase our overall happiness and wellbeing. Dr. Bellace says that laughter releases the neurotransmitter dopamine, which serves as a reward for the brain, creates a sense of euphoria, and plays a pivotal role in our motivation to continue the behaviour. Dopamine improves our mood, adrenaline makes us more alert and receptive, and serotonin is a calming, pain-relieving endorphin. The more you laugh the better you feel!
- Laughter is Great for Children and Families
“A day without laughter is a day wasted.” Charlie Chaplin
Just as with adults, it’s of enormous benefit to children to find themselves in a happy atmosphere surrounded by laughter. In fact, according to psychologists, in promoting your children’s sense of humour, you’re increasing their mental, emotional and cognitive development. Dr Weinschenk cites a study comparing the learning outcomes of two groups of toddlers, one that laughed while they learned, the other learning without cracking a smile. “The children in the group who did a task in a way that made them laugh learned the target actions more than those in the control group who were not laughing during the learning period,” she reports.
As someone once said, “Children don’t need more things. The best toys a child can have is a parent who gets down on the floor and plays with them.” So pull some funny faces and get your children laughing! The really good news is that if we laugh more it make us more effective at finding quicker, more effective solutions to whatever problems we may have.
- Laughter Helps Our Relationships
“In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.” Khalil Gibran
Laughter can also help us when it comes to our personal relationships – not only with people we already know and feel comfortable with, but with strangers and those we hardly know too. When we share funny moments with people, we’re more likely to open up and talk more about our personal lives afterwards. Psychologist Sara Algoe says, “For people who are laughing together, shared laughter signals that they see the world in the same way, and it momentarily boosts their sense of connection.”
Something else worth bearing in mind – according to studies, it’s 30 times easier to laugh when we have company, so arrange a get-together with friends and laughter is pretty much guaranteed. Even if we only laugh for a few short seconds, during that time our minds forget all about pain and worry. This can help us find the strength to face up to difficult situations and problems. Laughing alleviates feelings such as fear, anger and rage, meaning we can face painful or difficult moments with more optimism.
- Laughter Brings Peace and Dissolves Anger
“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” Victor Borge
Very often, the best way to help a tense situation is with a dash of humour. We’ve all experienced one of those deathly silent moments following an unpleasant or unwanted comment, and it’s during these moments that negative emotions such as anger and aggression can arise.
When something is perceived as funny, the reward center of the brain is activated – the same area that is activated during cocaine-induced highs. A funny remark that manages to produce a laugh can calm the atmosphere and clear the air, preventing the situation from escalating. Laughter dissolves anger.
- Laughter Strengthens the Immune System and Makes You More Healthy
“Laughter is a bodily exercise, precious to health.” Aristotle
You may be surprised to learn that when we have a good giggle, we increase our antibodies, which helps our body fight infection and disease.
The more antibodies we have, the more likely we are to avoid colds and the less likely we are to get sick. Experts confirm that laughing improves our overall quality of life and helps to cure illness.
The more you laugh the more healthy you become. A full-blown laugh-out-loud session mobilises and strengthens over 400 muscles; it gets the heart, abdomen and diaphragm working, and even the spleen, which helps to eliminate toxins. Not only that, but it aids digestion, reduces fatty acids, decreases pain and benefits breathing. One of its effects is a sort of massage on organs such as liver, kidneys, ovaries and intestines, and it causes a rush of energy to be distributed throughout the body, which stimulates and improves balance. When we laugh, our blood becomes charged with electromagnetic energy, improving circulation, and the bones of the spine and neck are stretched by as much as three centimetres!
- Laughter Reduces Stress
“Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.” Mark Twain
The famed Mayo clinic says, “Whether you’re guffawing at a sitcom on TV or quietly giggling at a newspaper cartoon, laughing does you good. Laughter is a great form of stress relief, and that’s no joke.”
In today’s society stress seems to be everywhere, affecting almost everyone. While it’s true that adult life brings with it a number of responsibilities, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t unwind and have a good laugh from time to time. In fact, that’s exactly why we need to!
Laughing lowers the levels of cortisol in our bloodstream, commonly known as the stress hormone. Laughter reduces stress. Less cortisol = less stress.
- Laughter Helps You Live Longer and is Good for the Heart
“A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but with a heartache comes depression.” Proverbs 15:13
Tori Rodriguez said, “’Funny or die’ has a whole new meaning, thanks to a large study published in April in Psychosomatic Medicine. Women with a strong sense of humor were found to live longer in spite of illness, especially cardiovascular disease and infection. Mirthful men seem to be protected against infection.”
When it comes to keeping our hearts healthy, apart from all the usual recommendations (diet, exercise, etc) laughter is linked to the healthy function of blood vessels and greatly helps with heart health. A Maryland School of Medicine study found that laughter causes the tissue that forms the inner lining of blood vessels (the endothelium) to expand in order to increase blood flow, while stress has the opposite effect, constricting blood vessels and reducing blood flow.
- Laughter Helps You Breathe Better and Puts More Oxygen in Your Lungs
“Your body cannot heal without play. Your mind cannot heal without laughter. Your soul cannot heal without joy.” Catherine R. Fenwick
More laughter = more oxygen, the lifeline of our system. Oxygen is one of the primary catalysts for biological energy in the human body. We breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. It is an element of intracellular energy that’s absolutely necessary to sustain human life. It plays an important role in the circulatory and respiratory systems. It purifies the blood by removing the toxic wastes in the blood stream. That’s why laughter is so important.
- Laughter is a Great Pain Reliever
“With the fearful strain that is on me night and day, if I did not laugh I should die.” Abraham Lincoln
Another effect of the endorphins we release when we laugh is to reduce the sensation of pain. As natural opiates, their ability to relieve pain is often greater than that of the medicines we buy at the pharmacy, according to some experts.
An Oxford university study said, “When laughter is elicited, pain thresholds are significantly increased, whereas when subjects watched something that does not naturally elicit laughter, pain thresholds do not change (and are often lower),” the authors write in the paper. “These results can best be explained by the action of endorphins released by laughter.”
In the book “Anatomy of an Illness,” journalist and author Norman Cousins chronicled how 10-minute intervals of intense laughter helped him get two hours of undisturbed sleep – despite a painful spinal condition that had previously kept him from dozing off.
- Laughter Helps You Sleep Better
“A little more laughter, a little less worry, a little more kindness, and a little less hurry.” Anonymous
Many scientists say the western world is in the middle of an epidemic of sleeplessness. To combat this, there’s nothing better than watching something funny on YouTube, DVD or TV. Better still, why not get together with some friends for a good chat and a laugh or two.
A group of Japanese researchers found that laughing in the evening causes the body to produce more melatonin (the hormone released by the brain at sleep onset). In a 2011 study, more than 100 participants with depression and insomnia were split into two groups: a control group and a laughter therapy group.
Compared to the control group, those in laughter therapy saw statistically significant improvements in depression, insomnia, and sleep quality. The more you laugh the better you will sleep. Studies have shown that our cerebral cortex releases electrical impulses that block the passage of negative thoughts one second after we start laughing. In other words, the longer you laugh for, the happier you’ll be. The bonus is you will sleep better as well.
Check out this 12 Reasons why Laughter Really is the Best Medicine article which is much of the inspiration and some of the text for the above Ten Reasons to keep on Laughing.
One more thing keep your family laughing because Aristotle was right when he said in the 4th Century BC, “Laughter is a bodily exercise, precious to health.”
Yours for More Laughter