Laughter can benefit your physical and mental health

Learn how laughter builds resiliency to stress and disease, builds muscle and lung capacity.

Ever hear the phrase whole-health or mind-body connection? In the book “Compassionate Laughter-Jest for Life,” by Patty Wooten, it states that to become whole means to balance our physical body, our mental thoughts and our spiritual awareness. The word “to heal” comes from the Latin word, “Haelen”, which means to “make whole.” Wooten states that when we allow ourselves to laugh on a daily basis as well as during difficult or stressful times, we can facilitate our own healing. Humor can help make us whole again. Humor can stimulate healing in our physical body, bring peace to our emotions and strengthen our will to live.

Mirthful laughter (laughter at what we consider to be truly funny) has been proven to have a profound effect on the body, mind, and spirit. Laughter is a cardiovascular exercise in that it makes our hearts beat stronger, our blood flow more briskly and more oxygen is delivered to our cells. It is also a pulmonary exercise in that we breathe deeper and exhale more fully. Our diaphragm, intercostal and abdominal muscles get a work out too from a good laugh. Research has proven that mirthful laughter can stimulate our immune system, increase our protection against viruses, bacteria and even cancer. Humor is good for our bodies but it also is good for our minds.

Humor brings together the whole brain. Several research studies have shown that after perceiving something funny, we become more creative at problem solving. Laughter increases creativity and flexibility in thought. In summary, we need to find something that will stimulate our physical body, mental state and spiritual awareness to develop a mind-body connection or acquire whole- health.

Wooten recommends developing hardiness to develop resiliency. The hardiness factors she states that are needed are commitment, challenge and control. If we are to survive and thrive in this stressful world, we must establish a commitment to ourselves, our families and profession. We must develop an ability to see potential change as a challenge rather than a threat and accept that the location of control for our own life lies within us and not outside of us.

Be committed to developing a self-care program that includes exercise, meditation or mindfulness, recreation and humor for you, your family, workplace and community. Challenge yourself to continue growing and developing personally and professionally. Lastly learn assertiveness and communication skills to gain control or power to proceed positively.

Michigan State University Extension has many social-emotional health and well-being programs and materials that can assist you in your quest for balance.

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