Why laughing is good for your health.

The world can be a depressing place, what with all the school shootings, terrorist threats and political nonsense. I needed to laugh, to lighten things up. Laughing is good for your health. I worked in medical biotech for 30+ years, so I started writing a biotech murder mystery series. This is a new subgenre of mystery in which I examine the humorous side of what can go wrong with medical biotech development. 

The first book in this series, PLEASURIA: Take as Directed (Koehler Books, Nov. 2018), is filled with adult humor. I’ve heard that laughter is the best medicine, and as a pharmacologist I began to wonder if this is true. So I did some research.

According to www.mayoclinic.org, in their article on Stress Management, laughter has both physiological and psychological benefits. Short-term benefits include increasing your intake of oxygen, stimulation of your heart, lungs and muscles, and an increase in endorphins, those same chemicals that give you ‘runners high’ (kind of a natural morphine). So, who the hell needs to exercise, when you can watch a funny movie or read a funny book and get the same benefits?

Laughter can also increase and then decrease your heart rate and blood pressure, giving you a good, relaxed feeling. It also stimulates circulation and aids in muscle relaxation, both of which can reduce the physical symptoms of stress. These are the same effects that you get from meditation. So why spend hours in meditation when all you have to do is laugh.

Long-term benefits of laughter include the release of neuropeptides that boost your immune system to help fight stress and illnesses. Laughter can also ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural pain killers, again including those wonderful endorphins. So, the more you laugh, the less stressed and sick you’ll be, and you won’t feel as much pain.

From a psychological standpoint, laughter can help lessen anxiety and depression, help you to cope with difficult situations, and may make you feel happier. 

According to www.findapsychologist.org, in the 1960’s a political journalist named Norman Cousins was diagnosed with painful rheumatoid disease. He decided that happiness and laughter would help, so he began a strict treatment regimen of watching comedies like Laurel and Hardy, Candid Camera and the Marx Brothers. Cousins wrote a book, in which he stated that ten minutes of laughter allowed him two hours of pain-free sleep. His disease eventually went into remission.

This article also reports that laughter results in a sense of physiological and psychological relaxation and calmness. This can last up to forty-five minutes following the person’s last laugh. Laughter is also reported to increase endorphin levels (there’s that natural morphine again) and decrease stress hormones such as serum cortisol.

Good grief! After reading these two articles, I’m wondering why I’ve wasted so much time exercising, eating right and taking my various meds. Sorry readers, but I’m outta here. I’m going to go watch an old Mel Brooks movie, re-read PLEASURIA (I still laugh when I re-read it) and then work on the third draft of the sequel to PLEASURIA, entitled Jason Longfellow and the Traveling Killer. I can feel those endorphins pumping and am more relaxed already. (I’ll probably also stop watching the news and reading the online news feeds, cause those things can really harsh your mellow).