Give the great gift of laughter this holiday season


Clarion photo Ashley Lytle

Senior Kira Rea and Grace Benefiel have a laugh in the halls of CHS

By Emily Diamond, Editor-in-Chief

One of the best presents you can get someone this holiday season is priceless, accessible, and a gift to yourself, too. Wrap up jokes and laughter in a bow and you’ll create smiles and improve others’ health. Besides from simply increasing happiness and overall well being, studies have shown that laughter has profound physical, mental, and social benefits.

Laughter has extensive benefits to your health. It can boost your immune system and circular system, enhance oxygen intake, stimulate the heart and lungs, and relax muscles throughout the body. It can also increase tolerance of pain, ease the digestive system, and lower stress.

One study found that watching 15 minutes of comedy increased people’s pain threshold by 10 percent. This may be caused by the physical exhaustion of the abdominal muscles during laughter. This “exercise of the stomach” triggers endorphin release, which is usually provoked through physical activity.

Laughter also has numerous mental benefits that are evident in daily life. It reduces stress, promotes relaxation, eases anxiety and fear, increases memory and learning, and improves sleep, among many other advantages.

Researchers at California’s Loma Linda University conducted a study about the advantages of laughter on the body. Twenty older adults in their 60s and 70s were tested on their stress levels and short term memory. All participants took a memory test and gave saliva samples at the very beginning of the experiment. Then, one condition sat silently and without activities while the other group watched funny videos.

After 20 minutes, participants gave a second set of saliva samples and re-took a short memory test. The humor group performed significantly better at memory recall than before watching videos, as did the non-humor group. However, the humor group’s improvement was remarkably larger than the other group (43.6% compared to 20.3%). In addition, cortisol, which is the stress hormone, had lower levels for the humor group, suggesting that laughter than positively impact the body and reduce anxiety.

Socially, laughter can strengthen relationships, shift perspectives, promote group bonding, and help diffuse conflict. Laughter is crucial in teamwork, whether it is at an educational or professional setting.

Laughter can extend past daily interactions and actually help heal people through laughter therapy. Norman Cousins was one of the first people to realize the profound positive impacts of laughter. He was diagnosed with a severe cause of arthritis called Ankylosing Spondylitis and traditional medicine failed to relieve his pain. Cousins decided to try to heal himself so he turned to laughter. “Cousins left the hospital, checked into a hotel, took megadoses of vitamin C and watched Marx Brothers films and TV sitcoms, finding that 10 minutes of ‘belly laughter’ allowed him two hours of pain-free sleep,” Beth Bongar wrote in her article about laughter therapy.

Since Cousins, laughter therapy has started to become more sought-after. The movie Patch Adams recounts a doctor who used laughter for healing. Patch, played by Robin Williams, started a laughter treatment facility called the “Gesundheit Institute.”

At Cancer Treatment of America, they use laughter as a tool to help fight cancer. The laughter therapy helps patients cope as they undergo conventional cancer treatments. Laughing meditation and laughter yoga are additional ways to help restore or maintain health.

Laughter is easily accessible. Whether you are in social settings or by yourself, laughter can be attained through humorous jokes, funny videos, or comedy shows. Laughter is a universal and contagious language that may be the secret to providing you with extra happiness.