How humor improves our health — according to science

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“Like a welcome summer rain, humor may suddenly cleanse and cool the earth, the air and you.” — Langston Hughes

What do you do for fun? I wonder how many good times you have in your life. Of course, there’s a balance. Too many, and we’re not focused enough. Too few and life becomes very boring, very quickly. Life is more enjoyable when we have fun moments to look back on with happiness, and times to look forward to with anticipation.

What immediately pops into your mind as the most fun time in your life? Was it an experience or the laughter and smiles that came from a great joke or event? For me, the most fun day of my life was the day of my wedding. Getting to share a beautiful celebration of love and friendship with my wife was truly special. Sharing it with friends and family made the reward incredible.

This memory will always immediately come to mind. Though I can also recall, times, certainly not as special, though very funny, where I laughed so hard, I thought I’d never be able to breathe again. I bet you have a few of those yourself!

A Story to Tell

I still vividly remember one of the best laughs I ever had. I was interning on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during my college years. My boss, who was more of a babysitter if I’m being honest, was solely tasked with supervising the interns. He was a very nice man, albeit one with a hot temper and a loudmouth.

It was our job each day to help pick up the lunches that were delivered each day. Well, one Friday afternoon, on a hot summer’s day, ole Sal was doing his usual call to the interns: “Pizza’s here. Pizza’s ready for pickup!” We always ordered pizza on Fridays. New York tradition! Sal must have barked out those words at least 10 times.

Finally, a real wiseguy, one of the funniest guys I ever met, Don, inched over toward where Sal was standing. Sal once again barked out those words and Don, seizing the moment and realizing many eyes were on him, said:

“Hey, Sal! Any word on those pizzas?”

I laughed so hard, I fell to the floor. I watched grown men cry with tears of joy that day. We all lost it. It was impeccable timing and brilliant sarcasm. It was hardly the best time of my life but it was probably the funniest. And as it turns out, getting some good laughs in isn’t just a way to pass the time. It’s good for our health.

The Science

According to research from the prestigious Mayo Clinic, these are the short-term and long-term effects of humor:

Short-Term:

· Stimulate Many Organs

· Activate and Relieve your Stress Response

· Soothe Tension

Long-Term:

· Improve Your Immune System

· Relieve Pain

· Increase Personal Satisfaction

· Improve Your Mood

Source: Stress Relief from Laughter? It’s no joke

I encourage you to find your moments to mix fun into your day. Some of us get so busy in our work and school lives, we often forget to take time to chill. It’s important to squeeze in time for fun, here and there, to take away stress and break up the monotony. I always find time to watch YouTube videos that make me laugh or new comedy specials from people like, Amy Schumer, who know how to make me laugh.

More research shows that laughter relieves stress, helping us to breathe easier and live healthier lives. Cardiologist Michael Miller Miller, of the University of Maryland Medical Center and William Fry, a psychiatrist at Stanford University School of Medicine have concluded the following:

“(They) began studying the effects of laughter on the cardiovascular system in the 1970s, (and) hypothesize that brain chemicals called endorphins, which are released during mirthful laughter, latch onto opiate receptors in the lining of blood vessels. This interaction stimulates blood vessels to release nitric oxide, a molecule known to relax arteries. Relaxed arteries are more flexible and wider, permitting easier blood flow.”

Source: Laugh and Be Thankful, it’s good for the heart

Don’t Forget to Have Fun

Fun is one of the most underrated values. It’s so easy to get lost in this ongoing quest toward productivity and efficiency. We all need time to just kick our feet up and chill, which is much different than lazy time spent stewing in negative emotions. Fun expands our imagination, allowing us to scratch the itch of our creative side. Simply put: a good laugh makes us happy. That’s good enough for me.

What are your funny stories to share? Feel free to list them in the comments section below. The point is, keep an open mind and search for your times of laughter. You’ll be able to tell your own story for years to come. While you tell it, you may just be adding years to your life, as the stress washes away and you increase your personal satisfaction.

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This article first appeared on Medium