Laugh It Off: The Integral Relationship of Humor and Health, by David M. Jacobson, MSW
We all are aware of the stress response, the "fight or flight syndrome." The physiological changes that occur when we are under stress provide the body with the instant energy it needs to move quickly to fight or run, as our ancestors did for survival. Today we experience these same results, but we do not usually have the options of running or fighting. It`s a fact that negative emotions and emotional reactions to the negative things that happen to us cause harmful physical effects. Stress causes physiological effects: heart rate increases, blood pressure goes up, stomach acids increase, the ability to digest food decreases, muscle tension increases, the ability to tolerate pain decreases, the oxygen in the blood decreases, breathing becomes shallower...your personality becomes shallower, your chances of winning the lottery decreases...it`s just a terrible mess all around!
Constant stress can cause negative reactions, such as lowering our resistance to disease or infections. The negative effects can happen whenever we have negative thoughts and feelings. Our minds are very powerful. People have had heart attacks just by working themselves up into a frenzy of negative, fearful or angry thoughts. Any perceived threat can initiate the stress response. This can range from someone screaming in your face to having to speak in front of a group. There is a powerful relationship between how you perceive what is happening to you (the threat) and what is going on biochemically in your body.
Laughter is the antidote to the stress response.
Research shows that people who laugh heartily on a regular basis have lower standing blood pressures than the average American. When we have a hearty laugh, our blood pressure initially increases and then decreases below normal levels. Our breathing becomes deeper, sending oxygen-enriched blood and nutrients throughout the body. With laughter, endorphins and other natural pain-relieving hormones are released , improving our ability to tolerate pain. Our ability to digest food also improves. So you are not only what you eat, but what you think and feel. Research indicates that the benefits of laughter occur as early as a smile.
How can we bring more smiles and laughter into our lives?
Try one of these humor strategies:
Think about someone whom you consider fun to be around. What makes that person attractive? Along with mental alertness and positive attitude, a large part of your answer will lie in good humor and sense of playfulness. Humor is an excellent tool to use on your path in life. Approaching life`s aggravations with humor has fewer harmful side effect, for humor can release feelings of hostility and at the same time provide an acceptable means of expressing and decompressing these feelings in an appropriate way.
Humor is the healthiest coping mechanism you can use to deal with the absurdities of life. I used humor to literally get back on my feet after a diagnosis of severe arthritis. If you lose hope and are taken over by fear, you become helpless. If you use humor and focus on a positive outlook you can get through anything. You can learn to use humor like Judo, fending off attacks from a different angle. When the arthritis attacked, humor was my defense.
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