Caring for sick or elderly loved one is certainly no laughing matter, but being a carer doesn’t mean you lose your sense of humour. In fact, channelling the range of emotions we might feel as a carer on a daily basis, such as anger or frustration and turning these into a reason to smile can help us through the day and bring positive results – not only for yourself but for the person you are caring for too!
We may recognise that laughter lightens your burdens, inspires hopes, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert; and also helps you to release anger and be more forgiving. However, recent scientific research takes this a step further, as it has proven laughter to actually be good for your health. Laugher is in fact a potent medicine that has a whole host of benefits for the mind and body. It boosts the immune system and is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh.
Here are five great (scientific) reasons why we laughter really is the best medicine:
1. Laughter releases endorphins via opioid receptors in the brain. This acts in a similar way as to addictive opioid drugs which also bind to these receptors, suggesting that laughter induces a euphoria not unlike narcotics – only without the drawbacks!
2. Laughter fosters brain connectivity. As it turns out decoding the message communicated via laughter is more complicated that it seems and as different parts of the brain are used to de-code different types of laughter, this means that when we hear a laugh we experience rigorous brain-region activity as we decipher the communication message.
3. Laughter has a similar effect to antidepressants. Laughter releases serotonin, the same chemical which is acted upon by the most common type of antidepressantees – SSRI’s.
4. Laugher is good for the heart. Research has shown that laughter has an anti-inflammatory effect that protects blood vessels and heart muscles from cardiovascular disease. Although it isn’t understood how this is possible, it seems to be related to lessening the body’s stress response which is directly linked to increased inflammation.
5. Laughter is central to relationships. A study showed that women laughed about 126% more than men, however men seem to instigate laughter the most, which puts an interesting perspective on the nature of relationship dynamics. Women also rate sense of humour as one of the most important characteristics in choosing a potential mate. Men tend to rate women who laugh a lot (i.e. at their jokes) higher than those who don’t.