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Laughter is the best medicine…and it is free!

If Tommy Cooper’s comment…”I’m on a whisky diet, I’ve lost three days already”….or Ken Dodd’s one liner…'I have kleptomania. But when it gets bad, I take something for it’ …makes you smile, then you are on your way to better health!

There is increasing evidence that laughter really is one of the best medicines you can give your body.

When you start to laugh, it doesn’t just help to cheer you up, but it actually brings about physical changes in your body that can have real benefit.

For a start, laughter can enhance your intake of oxygen rich air. This will stimulate your heart, lungs, muscles, and also increase the endorphins that are released by your brain. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.

At the start of a good laugh, your body’s stress responses automatically fire up, increasing your heart rate and blood pressure, but then this all cools down quickly giving a calm, relaxed, happy feeling that can last for up to 45 minutes.

But these are immediate physical responses. There are also long term benefits from laughter. Happy positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides which help to fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses. Regular laughter can improve the function of blood vessels and increase blood flow which can help protect against a heart attack or other cardiovascular problems.

Laughter is also thought to be able to break the pain-spasm cycle common to some muscle disorders.

There are also psychological benefits from having a good laugh. Humour can help you move away from your troubles and also forget criticisms and doubts, helping your social life and making it easier to make friends.

Some of us are born with a sense of humour but for others, we may need to work at it. One key characteristic that helps people laugh is not to take themselves too seriously.

The Mayo Clinic say humour can be learned and developing a sense of humour is easier than most people think.

Their tips include:

Put humour on your horizon. Find a few simple items, such as photos or comic strips that make you chuckle. Then hang them up at home or in your office. Keep funny movies or comedy albums on hand for when you need an added humor boost.
Laugh and the world laughs with you. Find a way to laugh about your own situations and watch your stress begin to fade away. Even if it feels forced at first, practice laughing. It does your body good.
Share a laugh. Make it a habit to spend time with friends who make you laugh. And then return the favour by sharing funny stories or jokes with those around you.
Knock-knock. Browse through your local bookstore or library's selection of joke books and get a few rib ticklers in your repertoire that you can share with friends.
Know what isn't funny. Don't laugh at the expense of others. Some forms of humor aren't appropriate. Use your best judgment to discern a good joke from a bad, or hurtful, one.

Other tips include trying to laugh at some of life’s situations rather than bemoan them; uncover the irony and absurdity of life and you could start to chuckle. Also pay attention to children and emulate them – they are experts on playing and looking at life lightly…and laughing.

We may not all be able to turn into Billy Connolly but if his…. definition of an intellectual is someone who can listen to the William Tell Overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger…makes you smile, then search out other comments, jokes and stories that amuse you.

As they say, laughter really is the best medicine!

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