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Oscar’s track: Laughter is the best medicine

Community Columnist

Next time someone sends you a text message containing “LOL” (Laugh Out Loud), do it! It just might make you healthier.

No joke — when it comes to relieving stress, research suggests that laughter might actually be the best (and safest) medicine.

According to studies conducted by Dr. Lee S. Berk and his colleagues, researchers at Loma Linda University’s Schools of Allied Health and Medicine, repetitive “mirthful laughter” was found to cause responses in the body similar to those caused by moderate physical exercise.

Their studies found that laughter enhances your mood, decreases stress hormones, enhances immune activity, lowers bad cholesterol and systolic blood pressure, and raises good cholesterol, as reported in the April 26, 2010 issue of ScienceDaily.

When you start to laugh, it actually induces physical changes in your body. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain. Laughter stimulates circulation and aids muscle relaxation, both of which help ease tension and reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.

Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can impact your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. In contrast, positive thoughts actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and reduce the risk of more serious illnesses.

Laughter can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations. It helps us connect with other people in a positive way.

Laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers. Laughter may also break the pain-spasm cycle common to some muscle disorders. Best of all – there are no negative side effects.

With all these benefits, laughter is one of the best natural and free medicines.

In reporting on Dr. Beck’s research, Loma Linda University said, “New research suggests that, much like exercise, scheduling humor into your day could be beneficial to your health. Loma Linda University researchers have demonstrated that the simple anticipation of a scheduled positive experience, like humorous events, can initiate positive changes in neuroendocrine and stress hormone response. In other words, looking forward to a happy experience may be good for you.”

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