SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Many people will be pulling pranks and telling jokes on April first, but could April Fool’s Day also be good for your health?
“A daily dose of laughter can give you many health benefits, free of cost,” said Kelsa Ferguson, field specialist in nutrition with University of Missouri Extension. “Laughter is shown to reduce stress, make you feel better, improve relationships, and give your body a good internal exercise.”
Taking the time each day to laugh — with co-workers, family, or friends — can bring benefits to many aspects of your life. Research has shown that laughter can reduce stress by causing the body to relax. Laughter can also decrease pain and help reduce headaches.
“Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases infection-fighting antibodies. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain,” said Ferguson.
Laughter can even help reduce blood pressure. But, there are more than physical health benefits. Laughter can also improve personal and professional relationships.
“Laughter is shown to improve group cohesiveness that may make group projects more productive and increase problem-solving abilities within the group,” said Ferguson. “Laughter creates bonds between individuals and groups that help create effective relationships, personal and professional.”
Having some laughter throughout the day also can help reduce the feelings of stress, fear, and anxiety and help lighten your mood according to Ferguson.
Most importantly, laughter is free. Laughter is also nonfattening, nonpolluting, nontaxable, cost-free, constantly renewable and does not require batteries or special assembly
“The benefits of smiling and laughter can show improvements in all aspects of health, mental, physical, and social, with no cost to you,” said Ferguson.
Some even suggest that laughter is good exercise although the research on this is conflicting.
“When you laugh, your muscles are activated, oxygen floods the blood and the cardiovascular system dilates. Laughter can extend to every internal organ, giving them a healthy massage,” said Ferguson. “But laughter cannot replace exercise.”
Some people advocate for “laugh yoga” as exercise. Others suggest fake laughter is just as effective for the body as laughter at something that is actually funny. Ferguson says there is no consensus among researchers on the value of fake laughter.
“Laughter can start from simply being positive. Practice seeing the glass half full instead of half empty. Look for humor and laughter in everyday situations,” said Ferguson.
Research shows laughing 15 times a day creates a health benefit. This can be a starting point and a goal to help improve your health and outlook on life, find fifteen times a day to express laughter in different areas of your life and improve your health.
“This is a simple medicine with no dangerous side effects, all natural, and free,” said Ferguson. “Laughter is contagious, spread it throughout your community any day of the year, not just on April Fool’s Day.”
For more information, Kelsa Ferguson can be contacted at the Greene County MU Extension Center in Springfield, Mo. at (417) 881-8909 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional information about laughter can also be found online at http://extension.missouri.edu.