I’m 21 years old. I am not naïve, nor am I wise. I just have the ability to buy a bottle of wine if I want to. And while I’m no sociologist either, I think it’s fair to say that your teens and your twenties are the most dramatic times of your life. Even though I haven’t had the life experience of my parents and grandparents, I feel like I’ve been around long enough to experience most of the feelings life has to offer. I’ve cried from joy, I’ve been floored by heartbreak, I’ve lashed out in extreme anger, and I’ve made myself sick with sadness. No matter what, though, I’ve always used a single coping mechanism: laughter.
We’ve all heard the saying “laughter is the best medicine,” and if we’re being all lovey-dovey-wishy-washy, then yeah, it’s easy to agree with that. Generally speaking, I have found that people who laugh more are happier. They are the optimists who don’t take anything too seriously, and the people who move on from bad things faster than those who dwell on them. But I’ve always wondered, in addition to giving you a brighter disposition, does laughter actually provide you with health benefits? Apparently, it does.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the physical benefits of laughter stem from its general power to relieve stress in our lives. When we laugh, we take in more oxygen than when we exhibit normal breathing patterns. This stimulates our organs, bringing oxygen to our heart and other muscles, and makes us feel happy due to the rush of endorphins to our brains. A faster heart rate and higher blood pressure make us feel relaxed, which is often translated into the physical relaxation of our muscles that get tense when we are stressed out.
Over time, chronic laughers receive the benefit of a better immune system due to the release of neuropeptides, which are molecules that aid in stress relief and other bodily imbalances. Laughter can relieve pain, regulate blood sugar levels, and save us fifteen minutes on an exercise bike! Now I don’t feel so bad for choosing to have a Friends marathon instead of going for a run last weekend.
It’s possible you think I’m just some weirdo with access to the internet trying to justify ditching the gym. And I wouldn’t blame you for that—I am pretty weird, I love the internet, and fine, I avoid the gym sometimes. But I can honestly say that the times in my life when I am laughing have been the ones where I have felt my best. I have more drive to get moving, be productive, and better myself and my relationships. If you’ve been dragging due to these rainy months, it might not be a bad idea to crack a smile, tell some jokes, and see if your overall health improves!