Remember to laugh
There are two activities that help to boast our immune system – they help the bone marrow to produce white blood cell to fight diseases. These two activities are exercise and laughter. Laughter helps to decrease levels of stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine. Laughter helps to increase the activity of a type of white blood cell that attacks tumor cells and those infected with virus. Healthy Cells Magazine, January 2015, states: “Both [laughter and exercise] can improve your health by supporting your immune system, improving your blood pressure, and stimulating your internal organs. Laughter reduces blood sugar levels, increasing glucose tolerance in diabetics and non-diabetics alike. This can be especially beneficial for those who are bedridden, sick, or cannot move well.”
What I like about laughter is that it costs nothing to do. You need not purchase anything, nor do you have to go to a laughter gym, or attend a laughter seminar. Just laugh a lot and you will help to boast your immune system. Laughter is free and it helps reduce costly medical expenses. No wonder my dear uncle, the late James J. Catalyn spent his entire life making us laugh.
It is then easy to understand also that laughter is one of the best ways for handling stress. If there is one thing Bahamians must do to release some national stress is laugh at wesef. As one enthusiastic comedian expressed, “the best laughter, for me, is from the heart. It is when my friends and family laugh together. We often laugh so hard that tears come to our eyes. Our side hurts from overworking our laughing muscles, then our faces are stiff, while our jaws hurt, and best of all no matter how hard we try, we just cannot stop laughing.”
Laughter occurs when energy is built-up, tension rises, then the situation changes, and there is no longer a need for the tension, and finally laughter results as a release of the pent-up energy. With this release of energy, it is easy to see how therapy uses laughter to heal, and aid the mind and body.
Laughter is not only a physical motion of the facial muscles, but also the emission of noise (some really funny noises at times), sometimes loud and boisterous; while other times quiet and snickering. Some laughter specialists describe the different types of laughter as sweet laughter, triumphant laughter, and devilish laughter (Gregory, 94). Whatever type of laughter you experience, it is good to laugh on a regular basis. Medical research has determined that hearty laughter is good for your heart. Laughter lowers pulse rate and blood pressure. When you laugh, you breathe more deeply thereby sending oxygen throughout the body. Laughing stimulates the brain and the body. Endorphins, which are positive pleasure-making chemicals, are released in the brain. This usually gives a temporary relief of pain and negative emotions which are directly related to illness. Our body will certainly appreciate laughing. It gives us a good workout. It strengthens the heart and improves our breathing.
If you cannot laugh, you are in trouble. The problem with many people is that they take themselves and life too seriously. They must be able to stand off and laugh at themselves.
As James Catalyn expressed throughout his life: “We must laugh at wesef. The joy of laughing brings relaxation, conquers stress, and reduces pain. Laughter creates positive thinking. When we walk around with long faces, unable to smile and laugh we are doing an injustice to our own lives and even to those around us.”
Dr. Michael Murphy, clinical psychologist, states that, “if you can’t laugh, a part of yourself is buried somewhere. Being able to laugh is just an essential part of being human.”
Some research also shows that people who laugh more live longer. When humor researcher Norman Cousins was diagnosed with arthritis in the 1970s, he was given a one in 500 chance of living. But he decided he would try to beat his illness with strong, positive attitude. So, when the pain got too bad, he would sit down and watch old comedies like, “The Three Stooges” and “The Marx Brothers.” What he found was that if he could laugh one big, belly laugh for 10 minutes, he could sleep for two hours without any pain. (Burkdoll, 1996)
Laughter certainly can reduce stress. However, there are other lifestyle solutions to stress we need to look at. Exercise is another excellent means to reducing stress, whether it be biological stress (sustaining massive burns, having cancer); sociological stress (changing jobs, loosing spouse); psychological stress (uncertainty, worry, loss of self-esteem); and spiritual stress (guilt or feelings of sinfulness. Exercise can help in managing stress in two ways – strengthening the body to better resist stressors of any kind, and helping the body handle the by-product of the stress reaction. Exercise can be relaxing, even when you are tired after work. Exercise stimulates the circular system and the immune system. When we exercise, we stimulate the body to produce more white blood cells which help in fighting off diseases. One of the best exercises is walking. If you walk four to five times a week for about one hour each time, at a consistent, normal pace it will certainly help in stress management. Regular exercise will increase the muscle cells’ ability to use oxygen more rapidly because the energy factories increase in size and number.
Here’s what to do – laugh every day and exercise in some form (walking, standing more instead of sitting, stretching, etc.) every day and in more significant form (running, jogging, weight lifting, etc.) at least three times a week.
• Barrington H. Brennen is a marriage and family therapist and board-certified clinical psychotherapist. Send your questions or comments to email@example.com or write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit www.soencouragement.org or telephone 242-327-1980.