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Wellness Wednesday: The Mindful Eating Challenge
April 2, 2016

Have you ever met someone who laughed at something childish and afterwards said, “I may be (fill in the blank) years old, but I will always be a child at heart!” Heck, maybe you are that person! Well, it turns out that this person is likely to live longer and experience a higher quality of life than the average adult. On average, the older we become the more serious we become about life. As a result, the average adult laughs only 15 times a day while children laugh an average of 400 times/day.

Some would argue that laughter is the best medicine. There is research suggesting that those who laugh more frequently typically:

    • attract more friends,
    • have healthier resting vitals,
    • and feel happiness more often.

I think it is fair to say that quality of life could be measured based on how often one experiences happiness. When people laugh or smile, even when they do not feel especially happy, epinephrine and serotonin (feel good hormones) are released into the body and result in happy feelings.  Not only that, but when we laugh our breathing quickens. This exercises the diaphragm, neck, abdominals, face and shoulder muscles which causes increased oxygen consumption and has been shown to improve blood circulation and healing in the body. And if that is not enough, laughing also burns calories. Awesome! Professor William Fry at Stanford University reported that one hundred laughs burn approximately just as many calories as a ten minute session on a rowing machine.

One of the most incredible case studies on the healing effects of laughter is about a man named Norman Cousins. This man had a condition called ankylosing spondylitis. Ankylosing spondylitis is an arthritic condition that causes the vertebrae to fuse together causing a rigid and completely inflexible spine. Many doctors told him they could no longer help him and that he would live in excruciating pain before he died. Cousins then decided to rent every funny movie he could find, laughing as hard and loud as he could in order to live the rest of his life as happily as possible. After six months of inflicting constant laughter on himself, Norman amazed the doctors when they saw his condition had declined and eventually, disappeared. Norman Cousins had cured his life threatening disease with what seemed to only be using laughter therapy. This led to more research on laughter and the hormones associated with it. It was found that those who laugh more have an increased immune system. This is why, on average, happy people seem to rarely get sick and those who complain and are miserable seem to be ill more frequently.

So next time you hear something and are unsure if it is appropriate to laugh at, give yourself permission to laugh at it. After all, it can only help you live longer and healthier!