Perhaps it is just an errant love affair with comedy, but I’ve personally always felt that laughter was one of the quintessential aspects of life, and whenever I’m in the dumps, a good laugh always knocks me out of the funk. And surprisingly enough, that laughter is actually good for your health (who knew?).
Actually it was the MD’s Michael Miller and William F. Fry who knew, conducted a study and wrote a paper on just this titled The Effect of Mirthful Laughter on the Human Cardiovascular System. In case you missed reading that in Volume 73 of the Medical Hypothesis Journal, here’s a nice excerpt (although I warn you these are Doctors words, not a writers),
The biologic interplay between emotion and CV [Cardio-Vascular] health has been greatly enhanced through studies of the vascular endothelium. As the largest organ in humans, the inner blood vessel lining serves as a conduit for the transfer of blood cells, lipids and various nutrients across the lumen to neighboring tissues. Healthy endothelial cells secrete vasoactive chemicals, most notably endothelial-derived relaxing factor or nitric oxide (NO), that effects smooth muscle relaxation and vessel dilation…Because mirthful laughter induces the release of β-endorphins which in turn have high affinity for μ3 opiate receptors, we hypothesize that such positive emotions lead to the direct release of NO and associated biological consequences. Indeed, our studies have demonstrated opposing effects on endothelial vasoreactivity between those previously established (e.g., mental stress induced by negative visual and/ or auditory stimuli) and those induced after mirthful laughter, thereby providing a potential mechanistic link between positive emotions and beneficial effects on the vasculature.
Ever have one of those moments that you just scratch your head saying “What does that mean?” Basically what this giant block of Medical-Babble says is that just as there is a link between stress and cardiovascular problems, laughter (specifically mirthful laughter), provides positive benefits for your cardiovascular system. Oh and I swear that’s all the hard to understand Medical-Babble for the rest of this blog.
So the smart doctors have provided the science behind laughter as a positive way of maintaining health. But why exactly did these doctors study laughter (and more importantly why do they feel the need to use those scientific words that are outside the lexicon of the general population)? Well they studied laughter because,
Laughter is a complex human behavior, with inherent characteristics involving and reflecting participation of almost every functional element of the human organism. Laughter is ubiquitous in the human world population. No human group has been identified as being devoid of laughter.
Joking aside, this means laughter is universal. Forget mathematics, laughter is a true universal language! But like all things, comedy is hard, after all what makes one person laugh, won’t necessarily do the same to the next, as we all have slightly different tastes. If you give me a moment, I can demonstrate this quite easily with an old joke:
I just got back from a pleasure trip; I took my Mother-in-Law to the airport.
Now not to exaggerate, but to some that joke is hilarious, and others… well others don’t find it too funny for one reason or another. With comedy one of the most important things is delivery, and I don’t mean the pizza guy at your front door. It’s impossible to deliver a joke in the written form the same way as telling one to someone sitting next to you, but beyond that (and the fact that joke is fairly ancient and worn out) one’s sense of style in just what tickles the old funny bone differs from one person to the other.
I know that there have been various studies on what the funniest joke is, Lewis Black even had a short documentary on it (History of the Joke, from 2008, its worthwhile if you ask me). The simple fact is that there is no single joke that will hit every time, no one thing that is universally funny to everyone at the same time (except perhaps a chimp wearing a business suit… what you don’t find that funny? I think it’s hilarious!), with that fact how exactly can we all use this medical study to our benefit?
Well take a bit of time to discover what your particular taste is, and find that laughter. It’s common knowledge that Doctors want you to get at least an hour of exercise a day, and why not take a couple minutes of that hour to exercise your cardiovascular system with a good hard belly laugh. Perhaps you’d like the outrageous over the top insanity the likes of which Monty Python is known for. Or perhaps you’re more into the social commentary comedy of George Carlin. Or if you happen to be a night owl you could give Saturday Night Live a try. A good laugh might split your side, but it’ll make your heart happy, keep your healthy, and ease your troubles.