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Sharp Health News

The benefits of a belly laugh

Oct. 27, 2021

The benefits of a belly laugh
“Always laugh when you can; it is cheap medicine,” said English poet and politician Lord Byron. Dr. Hans Crumpler, a board-certified family medicine specialist with Sharp Care Medical Group, agrees.

“Humor and laughter have long been felt to be remedies for a number of ailments,” Dr. Crumpler says. “There are measurable benefits to them both.”

While stress can negatively affect your health, humor and laughter can improve it. According to Dr. Crumpler, both provide the following health boosts:
 
  • Enhance oxygen intake to stimulate the heart, lungs and muscles
  • Increase endorphins released in the brain
  • Ease pain
  • Decrease the body’s stress response
  • Stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Improve mood
What’s more, according to a 2016 study, a sense of humor might help you live longer. Researchers believe humor can help to decrease the stress hormones that suppress immunity, and they found that women with a robust sense of humor experienced 48% lower risk of death from all causes, a 73% lower risk of death from heart disease and an 83% lower risk of death from infection. Men with a strong sense of humor experienced a 74% reduced risk of death from infection.

“Humor and laughter can relieve degrees of suffering even in small amounts and in short time frames,” Dr. Crumpler says. “This is particularly true when someone is struggling with emotional or physical ailments that affect their mood.”

Dr. Crumpler also believes it’s important to recognize how humor and laughter are significant tools for enhancing communication and building rapport.

“Since humans started interacting, humor has been a method of easing tensions and knocking down barriers in our community,” he says. “Positive and targeted humor is a powerful means of accomplishing these goals without being harmful or derogatory.”

So, how can you increase laughter and humor in your life to enjoy the health benefits? Dr. Crumpler says that humor and laughter are best when positive and sincere. From funny pet videos online, to favorite comedic shows or movies, spending time with a precocious child or having a chat with a funny friend, humor can be found all around you.

However, even fake laughter and smiling can produce benefits. In fact, many people all over the world practice laughter yoga. It’s a combination of yoga, comedy, silliness and fake-it-till-you-make-it laughter. It can be a way of adding a bit of lightness in times of darkness, or simply a way to let loose and enjoy a belly laugh or two. Participants say that even if they approach a laughter yoga class in a negative mood, the authentic laughter of the others quickly becomes contagious. 

“Humor is not a replacement for sound medical treatment and proper standards of care,” Dr. Crumpler says. “However, humor is a very inexpensive way to alleviate some pain, suffering, tension, stress and the unpleasant side of life when it is used in a positive, uplifting and constructive manner.”

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