Remember what it’s like to laugh? Not howl, giggle or chuckle, but to gasp for air in a fit of swallowed breaths? Choking on that all-consuming, convulsing laughter that paralyzes you from the head down?
Salivating and gasping for air, you can’t breathe, move or talk; your face is red and your cheeks sore. But you don’t care. You are trapped in a bubble of your own joy, and if only for a few minutes, you experience euphoria. You could die right here, right now.
In those few minutes, you were complete. You needed nothing more. You wouldn’t stop smiling if someone put a gun to your head. You couldn’t think about anything but that very moment and that happiness.
The people who can make you feel like that -- those who can remove every fear, anxiety and regret -- are not to be taken for granted. Those who can alleviate every pain, worry and sorrow, and sweep the depression from your haunted mind, are to be held to the highest regard.
Those who can make us laugh are more than just our friends; they may just be our saviors.
They are probably humble about it, as most funny people are. They probably don’t act like people who have the ability to heal us; to save us. They probably don’t even realize they are so special, so meaningful.
They probably don’t realize that they -- who can turn that blanket of darkness that creeps up on us in our loneliest moments, and transform every evil thought and bad decision into nothing more than swallowed air -- are, indeed, a type of doctor.
According to a study reported at this year’s Experimental Biology conference, laughter produces the same effects as meditation, supporting the idea that laughing isn’t just good for the soul, but for the body and mind.
John Denninger, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, found that meditation, like laughter, has biological and psychical effects, warding off disease and reducing the effects of stress.
In his study, he reported that meditation has the capacity to reduce “chronic psychological stress and its symptoms, along with enhancing well-being and wellness.”
Following up Denninger's findings, researchers from Loma Linda University found that laughing activates the entire brain with high gamma wave activity, increasing dopamine levels. This explains not only why it feels so good to laugh, but also why we remain happy for minutes after the laughing has stopped.
These findings were discovered during a study with 31 people who watched one funny video and one stressful video. The nine parts of the brain were measured during the activity, and while watching the funny video, all nine parts were activated with high gamma wave activity.
Such gamma activity is strongly associated with meditation and explains why those who meditate feel the same type of refreshment and rejuvenation as those after a good laugh.
There’s no denying that laughter makes you less stressed. There’s also no denying that those who can keep your blood pressure down and your dopamine levels up are, indeed, some type of healer.
As we get older and our stress levels increase with every new responsibility, worry and anxiety, it's the friends who can make us laugh that should always be around.
They keep you less stressed.
Some do yoga to de-stress; others hangout with their friends. Some do both. If laughter and yoga produce the same health benefits, why not combine them to see if the two mental health activities have increased physiological benefits?
Laughter Yoga is a new yoga initiative that combines yoga techniques with forced laughter to complete the ultimate healing experience. According to their official website, “Clinical research conducted at Bangalore, India and in the United States has proved that laughter lowers the level of stress hormones (epinephrine, cortisol, etc.) in the blood.”
So if you can’t make it to yoga class or just don’t know how to get into that meditative state, go hangout with your funny friend for awhile; the results will be as rewarding and healthful as an expensive yoga class.
They make you stronger.
Laughing isn’t for the weak; it’s for the strong. It’s for those who can push aside their pain and laugh through it. It’s for those who can look at the bright side of life, rather than the dark. It’s why most comedians are the only ones who can withstand the insults and the mockery that comes with the job.
According to a 2013 article in The Telegraph, a study at Oxford University conducted in 2011 found that laughter does, indeed, increase our pain threshold. Research participants who watched comedy videos could withstand 10 percent more pain than their counterparts who did not bask in daily doses of laughter.
Laughing also releases endorphins, which work as “pain killers,” decreasing the amount of pain we think we’re feeling. It’s why there’s nothing that will heal your pain more than a good laugh.
It’s also why the only person you want to hangout with after your breakup, parents' divorce or bad grade is that friend who can make you laugh and forget about it.
They help you in school.
There’s a reason everyone loves the class clown. Though it may seem like he's just providing entertainment to an otherwise boring lecture, he's actually helping your grades.
According to a study on the effects of humor and test anxiety, Ronald Berk and Joy Nada found that humor decreases stress, which increases your test-taking ability.
In an experiment with 98 biostatistics students, the researchers found that the exams with humorous instructions led to higher test scores. According to their findings, “Students with high levels of test anxiety perform more poorly on all exams than their low-anxiety counterparts."
If your humorous friend can make you laugh before an exam, there’s no telling what you can’t achieve.
They make you more creative.
Laughter promotes creativity; it enhances our ability to learn. Children laugh up to 300 times throughout the day and adults less than 20, according to the Association for Applied Therapeutic Humor, giving children a greater learning curve and sense of creativity.
Laughter is what opens you up, filling your body with oxygen and endorphins. It’s what gives you the courage you need and the extra brain power to achieve almost anything. It’s the most creative process you can indulge in, along with the healthiest.
Laughter is one of the few things from our childhood we have yet to shed, and for the sake our endangered soul, never should.
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