BLOG 59: THE BEST MEDICINE
We have all heard that cliché ‘Laughter is the best medicine’ haven’t we?
Recently, to counterbalance a general feeling of helplessness in the face of certain life events and the seemingly constant stream of global bad news, I felt compelled to remind myself WHY this is a cliché and why it is worth listening to.
Without going into the processes of HOW it works, here are some of the benefits of a good belly laugh – and these effects can last for many hours.
Laughter increases our blood flow which is good for our heart, lungs and muscles. It reduces pain, lowers blood pressure and triggers the release of endorphins – our natural ‘feelgood’ chemicals. It activates chemical reactions which in turn reduce inflammation and prevent the build-up of cholesterol.
Laughter is a great cardio workout and burns the same number of calories as walking whilst also reducing the level of stress hormones in our blood system. It strengthens our immune systems by boosting certain white blood cells (NK cells) which fight viruses and bacteria.
Apart from all these physical benefits, laughter also affects our perspective and alters our emotional state. It can reduce tension, defuse anger and conflict, form social bonds, relieve anxiety, stress and sadness, build up resilience… and it is very attractive!
Even if it’s the last thing we feel like doing, it can help us heal physically and mentally in a very real way. It is a fact that even ‘faking’ a smile can trick the brain into a different mode and direct it to connecting different pathways.
Laughter is incorporated into spiritual teachings the world over – probably most famously in Buddhism, the Laughing Buddha, Bodai, is the rotund jolly Buddha that we will all have seen somewhere. There is also the enduring story of the three anonymous laughing monks who travelled all over China spreading joy. Chilean-born poet (and diplomat) Pablo Neruda wrote ‘Laughter is the language of the soul’. The list goes on - it’s a huge subject!
Reading about it reminded me just how powerful smiling and laughing can be… and that we always have access to this free internal medicine and there are only good side-effects. 😁