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By Dr. Janet Scott

The Mid-South Tribune

The Mid-South Tribune ONLINE

And the Black Information Highway



            Remember when you were a child and you thought everything was funny. You laughed all the time! You were so carefree. You left those days behind to become a stress-filled adult. You barely take the time to laugh anymore. The world of today is a serious place to live. But, one needs to learn to lighten up. Allow the child in you to play sometimes. The average child laughs about 300 times a day. The average adult laughs about 17 times. Where has the fun gone? It appears that we have exchanged living for existing.

What is laughter?

Laughter, the physiologic response to humor, makes us feel good for a reason. Laughter has been scientifically shown to reduce muscle tension and to stimulate the heart and lungs. It causes the diaphragm, the main muscle of respiration, to work heavily. Deep respiration that accompanies hearty laughter increases the oxygen level in the blood. Laughter stimulates the immune system. Such stimulation offsets the immune suppression caused by stress. Tears may be produced which relaxes our eyes and helps to flush out toxins. Some have characterized a good laughter as being similar to 10 minutes of jogging. Both leave you feeling relaxed and calm hours afterwards. Both forms of exercise release adrenaline, endorphins and enkephalins, which are natural painkillers. Spirits are renewed in both cases.

            Laughter springs from our emotional core and helps us feel better; see things more clearly and creativity; and allows us to weigh and use our options. Though triggered by a wide variety of things which are both funny and not so funny, of most importance is the experience of the wonderful healing power which is unleashed when we laugh. Itís the best medicine of all and itís everyoneís for the taking!

            Laughter lifts us up. Life becomes worth living. We stress less and enjoy other people more. We become fully present in the moment. Laughter relieves stress. Through laughter we cope with our fear and anger, which are the two emotions which tend to result in stress.  

Laughter and Stress

            Stress, we all have it. Stress drains the body of energy, depresses the immune system, creates states of diseases including heart disease, cancer, hypertension, etc. It is also now the primary cause of missed workdays! How can we find relief?

            Laughter is the number one prescription for stress relief. Laughter can be an effective self-care tool to combat stress. It is impossible to feel tense while laughing. The bigger the laugh, the lower the tension and the more long lasting the relief. Even after the laughter has ended body tensions continue to decrease. A state of reduced tension may last for an hour after a good laugh.

Laughter is an emotion

            Laughter, like crying, is a form of catharsis. It can relieve stress, anxiety, and tension. It can also be an acceptable outlet for hostility and anger. Laughter allows us to get in touch with our feelings by directly addressing them, letting them flow through us and then releasing them.

            How can I laugh at things that hurt? This question prevents many of us from using the healing power of laughter to deal with the pain. Many individuals are unaware that we laugh sometimes because we hurt. When we abandon our laughter due to the overwhelming pain, it keeps us victimized. When we are in this state, we become stagnated. We see no way out. Thus, we become isolated living in our lonely painful world.

            Every time we laugh we heal. Thatís why we feel better after we laugh, not before. We have to feel out emotions to heal.

Benefits of Laughter

1). It tends to balance our whole being

2). It gives you instant results.

3). It helps to build up a resistance to infections.

4). Allows us to bond with other people and ease our loneliness.

5). Laughter is contagious. Laughter creates laughter.

6). It is universal. Everyone can laugh.

7). It reduces aggression and conflict.

8. It relieves anxiety and stress.

             9). Itís fun.

            10). It allows for more creative thinking.

            11). Releases and transforms emotional pain.

            12). It is free! It does not cost anything to laugh!

Ways to include laughter

            We have many ways to bring laughter into our lives if we only allow it to happen. The following are just a few examples: family and friends, comedy clubs, theater, television, radio, newspaper, rent a video, tapes, CDís, children, watching home movies, go to a karaoke club, learn some jokes, find a game that is fun to play, go to the zoo to watch the animals, go to an amusement park, etc.

            Once we have established laughter as part of our lifestyle, we often find that it is easier to laugh at lifeís idiosyncrasies and at ourselves. You will see a difference in your life if you start off your day laughing. Your entire being tends to change!


How many laughs have you had today?


Dr. Scott is a contributing columnist for The Mid-South Tribune. She is a National Board Certified Counselor and a Tennessee licensed professional counselor with a mental health provider designation offering individual, group, couple and family therapy. Her office is located at 1331 Union Ave., Memphis, TN. 38104; phone: 901-722-8751.








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