I thought I had heard of everything, but Laughter University? Seriously? Yes, it is real. The full title is Laughter Online University (laughteronlineuniversity.com) and it is a fascinating web site . I have never doubted the contribution laughter makes to our psychological well-being, but this web site puts a lot of the reasons this is true into wonderful perspective. Through the use of “Laughter Wellness’ and “Laughter Yoga,” the true mind-body connection is explored (and exercised) with incredibly positive effects on an individual’s physical and psychological wellbeing
The LOU website states:
“When you laugh, all your body systems are affected in a positive manner. It is particularly important for seniors as well as bedridden or wheelchair-bound people. A big stressor for seniors is a feeling of being useless after retirement. It can lead to major depression and mental agony. Lack of importance creates frustration and many a times proves extremely detrimental to physical and mental health. Laughter helps to reduce stress and generate a positive attitude. Laughing together in a group also helps to boost self-esteem and overcome feelings of insecurity.”
But taking this a step further, laughter can have an incredibly positive effect on human physiology as well. A 2014 study by researchers at Loma Linda University in California dared to explore whether or not humor can affect short-term memory in older adults. It is a known fact that laughter can reduce the stress hormone cortisol, which can impair an individual’s ability to learn and retain information. The study stated that the primary goals was to determine whether or not watching a humorous video had any effect on short-term memory in older adults. The results clearly showed that learning ability and memory (“delayed recall”) were significantly improved.
Similarly, a 2009 study by the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore which, at the time, was the first to indicate that laughter may help prevent heart disease. Those results revealed that people with heart disease were 40 percent less likely to laugh in a variety of situations compared to people of the same age without heart disease.
So now that we have “proof” that laughter is indeed the best medicine, as the saying goes, how do we incorporate or introduce this into our lives? For some it is not as easy as it sounds, so here are some suggestions from Dr. Shagufta Feroz:
- Laugh at yourself. Share your embarrassing moments. The best way to take ourselves less seriously is talk about times when we took ourselves too seriously.
- Attempt to laugh at situations rather than bemoan them. Look for the humor in a bad situation, the irony and absurdity of life. This will help improve your mood and the mood of those around you.
- Surround yourself with reminders to lighten up. Keep a toy on your desk or in your car. Put up a funny poster in your office. Choose a computer screensaver that makes you laugh. Frame photos of you and your family or friends having fun.
- Keep things in perspective. Many things in life are beyond our control—particularly the behavior of other people.
- Smile. Smiling is the beginning of laughter. Like laughter, it’s contagious. Pioneers in “laugh therapy,” find it’s possible to laugh without even experiencing a funny event. The same holds for smiling.
- Count your blessings. Literally make a list.
- When you hear laughter, move toward it. Sometimes humor and laughter are private, a shared joke among a small group, but usually not. More often, people are very happy to share something funny because it gives them an opportunity to laugh again and feed off the humor you find in it. When you hear laughter, seek it out and ask, “What’s funny?”Spend time with fun, playful people. These are people who laugh easily–both at themselves and at life’s absurdities–and who routinely find the humor in everyday events. Their playful point of view and laughter are contagious.
Your assignment today is find humor in your life on a daily basis, if not more often. Laughter is universal. It is contagious. It can defuse situations. I remember well a few months ago when I was caring for my sister who was near the end of a fight with terminal pancreatic cancer. She had miraculously survived 5 years. She answered a phone call from a friend by saying, “I’m dying, but other than that I’m ok.” She was completely serious. I had to leave the room as it made me giggle at this apparent oxymoron statement. But I now can look back at that with humor as it helped me get through a very difficult time. Humor does have its place in righting our world when it seems out of balance or tilted. So go ahead! Laugh to your heart’s content!
Bains, G.S., L.S. Berk et al. “The Effect Of Humor On Short-Term Memory In Older Adults: A New Component For Whole-Person Wellness.” PubMed.gov. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2014 Spring. Web. 16 August 2016.
Miller, Michael, William F. Fry. “The Effect Of Mirthful Laughter On Human Cardiovascular Function.” NCBI.gov. U.S. National Library of Medicine. 2009 November. Web. 16 August 2016.
Feroz, Shagufta. “Laughter Is The Best Medicine.” Facebook.com. 25 February 2011. Web. August 2016.
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