A Dose of Humor
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2021

A Dose of Humor

You may have heard the old adage, “laughter is the best medicine.” But what you may not have suspected is that it is actually and scientifically true. Beyond exercise and a healthy diet, there is no better activity for a long and healthy life. Laughter has so many physical, mental, and social benefits. I want to share them with you and inspire you to go out and seek a good laugh.

Physical Benefits
Research has shown that laughter
strengthens the immune system. It actually thus improves your resistance to disease by decreasing stress hormones and increasing immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies.

Some studies have shown the benefits of laughter for those going through difficult illnesses, like cancer and COPD. In these cases, a sense of humor was associated with fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety and an enhanced quality of life. This could be because laughing increases the body’s natural feel-good chemicals, endorphins, and promotes an overall sense of well-being.

Mental Benefits
It’s no secret that laughing boosts your mood. It also helps people
manage stress, feel more hopeful, focus, release anger, increase energy, and relax. A humorous perspective creates psychological distance, which can put situations in a less threatening light. It has been shown to stimulate multiple physiological systems that decrease levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol and epinephrine, and increase the activation of the mesolimbic dopaminergic reward system.

Laughing draws people together and enhances relationships, because the things that make us laugh highlight absurdities that we all have in common. Looking at the funny side of a situation can help you forgive others more quickly. Social stimulation of all kinds, including laughter, is protective against dementia. It keeps your mind sharp and decreases stress hormones that are thought to worsen this condition.

Laughter is free and available to all. Here are a few ideas about how to seek out more fun and laughter in your everyday life.

  • Smiling is the beginning of laughter. Practice the habit of smiling to yourself at every opportunity. When you look at someone or see something even mildly pleasing, smile. Smiling at people, even from under a mask, has a terrific effect on them and on you.
  • Spend time with funny people and encourage others to be funny around you. Play with a child or a pet. Host a game night of fully vaccinated friends. Ask people, “what’s the funniest thing that happened to you today.” Don’t hesitate to do things “just for fun.”
  • Seek out funny media: YouTube videos, the comics in the newspaper, comedic movies, humor columns. Anything that brings you a chuckle is good for your health.
  • There is even a move toward making humor a part of the healthcare environment by inserting humor skills into interactions with patients. If you have ever seen the film Patch Adams with Robin Williams, you already know exactly what I mean.

What’s best of all is that laughter is contagious!  The more laughter you bring into your own life, the happier you and those around you will feel and, clearly, the healthier you will be!

Lisa Downing-Forget, MD, MPH, CMD, is an internal medicine physician, who specializes in patients over the age of 60, at SVMC Internal Medicine in Bennington, Vermont.



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