Laughing Is My Favorite Medicine
Yes that is a picture of me (and my co-author Dr. Blair Green) laughing loudly on National TV. I love to laugh and once I start, I often have a difficult time stopping, especially if I am with friends. In fact, everyone knows when I am in the office because I laugh so loud and so often. Have you ever noticed that if you have a bad day at work and you are grumpy, the moment someone makes you laugh it all melts away? Or if you have hurt yourself and then start laughing it doesn’t seem to hurt so much?
That is because laughing causes a positive change in the brain and the benefits are equal to those of meditation! It can improve your mood, decrease your blood pressure, decrease your heart rate, decrease stress hormones, may decrease anxiety, and even decrease the feeling of physical pain.
If you are stressed out or having a bad day turn on a funny show, call a good friend who makes you laugh or even go to a laughing yoga class.
Our brains are divided into the left and right hemispheres (sides). The left side of the brain is the side that is responsible for logic, pragmatism, math, technology, and science. The right side of the brain is more creative and intuitive. It is the area of the brain that is creative, musical, and artistic.
If you are a very logical, scientific person you may benefit from learning to tap into your whole brain- not just the left side. Laughter is a way to form connections between the right and left side of the brain.
A few years ago, I read this great book, A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink. One of the many ideas that resonated with me was the idea of taping into the right side of your brain with laughter. He discussed that even forced laughter has positive benefits. I was skeptical of this at first, so I did my own “field” research and took myself to a laughter yoga class. I felt very awkward and was completely uncomfortable when I got there. But within a few minutes I was laughing and having a good time. The ridiculousness of forcing myself to laugh was gone and I was left with increased happiness and felt better overall.
The research on laughter is growing and we are just beginning to understand it’s positive benefits on our psyche, physical body, and physiology. Maybe the real reason my patients get better is not my skill in physical therapy but the roaring laughter that often ensues during our treatment sessions….just food some for thought.