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A laugh a day keeps the doctor away

Laughing photoThis week is Mental Health Week -so here's a timely health report from Mr Vitamins. There are apples to keep the doctor away, buthere’s something equally as good for you that you can share with a friend or do by yourself - that something is a good, hearty laugh.

Laughing is as good as exercise

It’s estimated that laughing 100 times a day is the equivalent of spending 10 minutes on a rowing machine. It tightens your abdominal muscles while you burn calories, and makes you feel great while you do it.

Laughing makes you feel good

A good laugh triggers your brain to release endorphins, the very same chemicals produced when you exercise. Endorphins are responsible for the high that runners experience and which makes exercise so addictive for many people. These chemicals produce a feeling of overall wellbeing, something which most of us could do with more of in our stressful day-to-day lives. In much the same way that a quick burst of exercise gives you a mental pick up, a hearty chuckle will give you a boost and make the world seem a happier place.

Reduce belly fat by laughing

As well as stimulating the release of feel good hormones, laughing also reduces the production of cortisol, the hormone produced when we’re stressed. Cortisol is known to increase blood pressure and is also thought to be associated with weight gain. When you’re stressed, and the amount of cortisol in your blood stream increases, you release stored glucose into your blood stream, which is eventually converted into fat, particularly around your middle. If this continues over a long period of time, insulin resistance and even diabetes can develop. Reducing the stressful triggers is obviously fundamental, but being able to laugh at whatever life throws at you will make an enormous difference to the physiological response your body produces.

Laughing strengthens your immune system

As well as reducing stress levels, laughing is known to strengthen your immune system, improve tolerance to pain and enhance creativity. Research has also shown the people who suffer from house mite induced asthma become less reactive to their allergens when they have been shown a funny film. The effects aren’t limited to adults either. A study on children with atopic dermatitis showed that watching humorous films reduced nighttime waking. But you don’t even need to be laughing to get a benefit from approaching life with humour. Researchers found that when men were told they were going to watch a funny film, they started having positive changes in their hormones that the other test participants didn’t experience until they actually started watching the film.

The world’s funniest joke

At the University of Hertforshire, a project called Laughlab was set up to study the psychology of humour. They collected over 10,000 jokes and ratings from 100,000 people in 70 countries, and in doing so have come up with what 47% of people consider to be the world’s funniest joke: Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn't seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy takes out his phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps: "My friend is dead! What can I do?" The operator says: "Calm down, I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead." There is a silence, then a gunshot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says: "OK, now what?" Whether this made you chuckle or not, a good laugh is something which you should factor into your day to keep you healthy and make you feel good.

Mr Vitamins Research and further References

Kimata H. Effect of viewing a humorous vs. nonhumorous film on bronchial responsiveness in patients with bronchial asthma. Physiol Behav. 2004 Jun;81(4):681-4. Kimata H. Viewing humorous film improves nighttime wakening in children with atopic dermatitis. Indian Pediatr. 2007 Apr;44(4):281-5.