Guest Post by Dr. Sherry Pietrzykoski, Senior Instructor, Counseling and Human Development
Part 3 of a 6 part series on Coping with Stress
This week’s science of stress relieving topic is laughing – no kidding laughing! According to the Mayo clinic, “Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins…” ¹
Endorphins. Didn’t we discuss them in part one? Oh yes! These are the neurotransmitters released in the brain that help your body cope with stress. Believe it or not, laughing can lower your stress response by increasing your heart rate and blood pressure. In addition, it increases circulation which aids muscle relaxation. Both of these help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress. It causes the body to produce its own natural painkillers and helps you connect with other people.
Pain, whether physical or emotional is not fun; it saps us of energy and quite often makes us sad. When we are stressed we often experience pain; it may be in the form of headaches, stomach issues, back problems, sleepiness or insomnia. How often do you mope around when you are feeling stressed? Do you find yourself frowning more? If so it is time to put on a funny movie, watch a sit-com, or call an old friend that always makes you laugh.
My mom and I are best friends – seriously. She is twenty years older than I am and we have often been mistaken for sisters (doesn’t say much for how gracefully I am aging does it?).
Almost every year of my adult life we have gone on a trip together spending a week in one city or another travelling, shopping, seeing the sites and mostly having a grand time doing silly things together. Ten years ago she was diagnosed with cancer and given six months to live. I am not disclosing this information to make you feel sorry for her (or me) because you know what; my mom is still kicking. She is confined to a wheel chair now, but she is still laughing! We don’t go on trips anymore but we watch a lot of movies together. The other night we watched an old Bob Hope movie called the Cat and the Canary. Not really a side splitter but it had enough humor in it to make us smile.
So, my question to you this week is, do you believe there is truth to the old adage “laughter is the best medicine”? If so why; if not why not?
¹ Mayo Clinic Healthy Lifestyle Stress Management. (2014). Stress relief from laughter? It's no joke. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456
Read our earlier posts about stress here: