We hear the phrase "laughter is the best medicine" but how often do we take it seriously (no pun intended).
Let's take a look at what laughter does to our body and how it can naturally mimic the effect of some prescribed medicines.
- Release the
Krakenlaughter monster - Endorphins which are opioid (ahem!) peptides, are released when you laugh. They inhibit the release of GABA - the inhibitor (sounds like a Viking) which in turn boosts the good guy - dopamine resulting in a feeling of pleasure akin to eating something tasty like chocolate or love.
Endorphins bind to pain receptors in neurons and prevent the release of that tacky tachykinin. So, what does this tachykinin bloke do that's so bad?
He gossips among neurons relays to the body the pain signal (much like a mother-in-law). Endorphin blocks some of it and says no - not today.
Laughter also increases the body's pain threshold. I think of it as society's evolution to deal with itself. Natural laughter - and not the fake one you have to pull out every time your boss makes a lame joke - leads to higher tolerance of pain. A sociological example can be the Friday night bar scene where office workers gather in cramped, loud, uncomfortable settings but have a good time nonetheless, because of raucous laughter and working for the misery co.
Spontaneously induced laughter also increases vascular well-being. It causes the endothelium which is the inner lining of our blood vessels to dilate, leading to improved blood circulation.
Fighting stress - Literally, laughter induced endorphins help block the excessive release of cortisol in our body. Cortisol also known as the stress hormone is like that well-meaning friend who's jumpy and always ready to take flight. While it is important in our body's overall function, an excess of it is "stressful".
Bonding, Social Bonding - A bellyful of Santa like laughter releases the empathy hormone - Oxytocin. It is a hormone that helps us bond with others, the prime example being that a new mom has a high level of oxytocin in her body.
So, laugh at the small things, all things, do silly things to induce others to laugh and give yourself nature's finest medicine.