Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Importance of Laughter

Today I am prescribing a medicine that is highly addictive, a muscle relaxant, reduces tension, releases feel-good chemicals, and can lead the user to be dependent and constantly crave its use. That's right. I'm prescribing laughter! (cue cheesy laugh track).

From Imgur: Because who doesn't like Bear Humor?
But seriously, along with optimism and other factors of believing you will feel better, laughter is an easy way to boost your immune system and help cue natural feel good drugs. Essentially, it is a quick way to feel better even when you cannot sum up the energy to believe you can. In fact, on days I am finding it hardest to feel good, I search the internet for all the funny stuff I can find. Because even fifteen minutes of laughter can force me back on the track of feeling better. And I'll explain why.

Laughter has positive, multifaceted effects on our bodies and minds. Today I will cover not only why laughter is healthy for any person, but I am also going to go over some of the specific benefits it entails for women with endometriosis. (note: I am sure it will also benefit those with IBD, but to be honest I focus my primary efforts on endometriosis, as it has had the greater negative effect on my health. And, luckily, usually what ever is good for endometriosis (non-medication speaking of course) is usually good for IBD.)

Found this gem on Redditor. If you don't notice, he eats the evidence
First, let's go over some of the benefits of laughter pertaining to the body. In some ways, this is the most important effect. As anyone with a chronic illness can tell you, it is much more difficult to feel happy and optimistic when you are sick than when you are healthy. And any body boosts that can help the body recover are coveted and desired. Laughter enters here.

Laughter helps the body by releasing tension. Both muscles that do and do not participate in laughter are relaxed for up to 45 minutes after laughing. Often endometrial pains are because of and/or are intensified by muscle tension. Relaxing those muscles with a good laugh helps reduce that pain and relax your body! Additionally, laughter helps you relax in general. Studies have shown that women with endometriosis release excess adrenal hormones (stress hormones) when under stress. Not only do these hormones raise blood pressure and affect the heart, but high levels increase inflammation and impede the body's ability to heal and prevent scar tissue. Laughter helps relax the body and limit these damaging hormones.

Besides relaxing the body and preventing negative hormone release, laughter can also help increase beneficial endogenous chemicals in the body. Laughter releases endorphins, the body's natural 'feel-good chemical'. These are actually opioid peptides, which means they act on the same receptors that narcotic pain killers do. Producing this chemical through activities such as exercise or laughter can thus result in lesser experience of pain. So this is both physical and mental benefit (less pain, better mood).

Aside from altering hormones and chemicals, laughter also lowers blood pressure, increases oxygenation of blood vessels (improving healing and cell regeneration), and boosts immunity. Endometriosis sufferers are more prone to infections and other immune diseases. It's part of the disease. These woman almost always have compromised immune function, thus benefits such as these are a boon for them. Laughter helps beef up all your body's natural defenses and protectors.

Even better than all that, laughter also benefits people mentally and socially. Physical responses of laughter, such as reduction of stress hormones, increasing endorphins, relaxing muscles, help to produce a feeling of euphoria and contentedness. Your mood is lifted and you are resilient to negative experiences that would otherwise dampen your mood. Endometriosis is a huge downer sometimes. Not only because of pain and suffering, but also because excess/turbulent hormones can actually increase your proclivity for depression. Essentially, your body is making it extremely difficult to be happy. Thus, simple things such as laughing at funny videos really helps to combat that depression; it lifts up your mood whether or not you want it to.

Last, laughter helps foster bonds and closeness with those around us. Having a good laugh helps you feel more connected with the people laughing with you. It helps to diffuse social conflict. Endometriosis can put a lot of strain on relationships. Not only because you miss out on social functions because of feeling sick or in pain. Because it increases the volatility of your mood, it makes you more likely to have knee jerk reactions to tense situations and 'say things you wish you hadn't'. Having a good laugh about things helps to ease the strain on those relationships and allows you to form close bonds with people you care about. And having good friendships really does help one deal with the pains and frustrations of endometriosis. Friendships are important for anyone, but with a disease that constantly receives little understanding or empathy, friendships become invaluable sources of strength and support.

Thank you for reading, I hope you've enjoyed the videos/pictures I included to evoke a good laugh. May your day be full of laughter!

Some links:

Why printers are sent from HELL
Design me pie charts. For Free. (Language warning--PG-13)


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Contact me at bedhead@bedriddenhead.com

About The BedRiddenHead

I want to be happy. And this site is about that chance. How to strive to thrive in the body I've got and maybe turn my experiences into something worthwhile.

This site aims to help educate and reach out to people all over that struggle with pain or illness. To try and make something helpful. I work as a medical research writer, my background is in neuropsychology and biology, and I want to share what I learn in a way that is easy to understand. I am not a doctor. I'm definitely not your doctor. I am just some lady who wants to make someone's (anyone's) life a little bit better. Whether you have endometriosis, a chronic injury, a struggling friend, or just want to learn something new, I hope to make a place that has what you are looking for.

Thank you for stopping by, I wish you strength in your health and happiness.