Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Laughing Relieves Stress, Controls Pain and Keeps Body Healthy

My first job was working as a bag boy at Kroger. To make it through my day, I had to find ways to laugh. I remember one day as I was walking through an aisle, a lady stopped me and showed me a crushed can of Campbell’s Cream of Chicken soup.

     “Excuse me, sir,” she said, “but this can is dented.”
     “No, ma’am. It’s not dented,” I replied. “It’s condensed.”

She didn’t get it, but I had a good chuckle about it later with my buddies in the break room.

Chicken Soup for the Minimum Wage, 17 Year-Old, Smart-Aleck Soul
Today, as I’m looking outside my window, I’m seeing nothing but gray skies and rain. So I’m making the theme for this week “Laughter.” Today I’ll talk about the health benefits of laughter, Wednesday I’ll talk about tickling, and Friday I will talk about the power of an optimistic attitude.

Laughing Keeps the Bad Away

I was eight years old and studying karate. There was a big tournament and I was beaten to a pulp while sparring. My uncle took me aside to have a talk with me.

     “Hey,” he said. “It’s not a matter of winning or losing.”

     I sniveled and whined in response.

     “All that matters is that you did your best.” He paused. “So, what did you learn today?”

     “I learned…” I hiccupped. “I learned that it sucks to get your butt kicked.”

It truly does.
My uncle had tears in his eyes. He had to bite his cheek to keep from laughing.

Sometimes life just sucks. Working all week can be a drag, politicians never stop lying, there’s chaos all over the world, and try as you might you can’t stay asleep on the cool side of the pillow. Sad to say, there’s not much we can do about any of this (Sharper Image, where’s my refrigerated pillow?) But if we can’t immediately change the world, we can change how we respond to it.

Laughter - Not Medicine, Still Good

How do you laugh? I suck in air through my mouth and then my belly trembles as I bellow it out. My girlfriend breathes through her nose and then giggles like a zebra until she gets hiccups. Other people, like my uncle, snort and chuckle in a more reserved fashion. However you do it, laughing has immediate and long-term effects on your health.

Take two, with smiles. Side effects include Happiness and Fulfillment.
     * Nerves and Stress: You have many nervous systems in your body, one of which is the parasympathetic, responsible for relaxing the body. Laughter stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system, relieving stress.

     * Organ Health: The deep breaths you take while laughing bring fresh oxygen into your blood, keeping your heart and lungs healthy. According to researcher William Fry, one minute of laughing makes your heart beat as fast as spending ten minutes on a rowing machine.
     * Bloodflow: A study by the University of Maryland shows that people who finish watching a drama film have tighter blood vessels than those who walk out of a comedy. Laughing relaxes blood vessels while raising blood pressure and heart rate, moving that oxygen-rich blood throughout your body.
     * Pain Relief: Laughing makes the brain release endorphins, the “feel good” neuro-chemicals. These same chemicals are responsible for naturally managing pain. 

     * Immune System: Since the 1980s, studies have shown that mental stress and depression cause physical changes in the immune system. T-cells respond weakly and the body stops producing immunity-boosting interferon. The longer depression lasts, the weaker the immune system gets. Laughter is a good way to break that cycle.

I had to work hard to find a stand-up comic who passed the Safe For Work test. So take a minute, laugh, and brighten up your day.

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