A sedentary lifestyle is the greatest danger to health and exercise is often prescribed as an antidote. There is something far simpler and more effective than cardio, weightlifting and brisk walking, which is laughter. Laughter, my friends, is no laughing matter. It is as much an exercise as it is a natural reaction to something that is oddly funny. It exercises the muscles of the face and studies have found that more than fifteen minutes of sustained laughter exercises the muscles of your torso as well. In a capsule, it is an exercise often undermined and adds to other aspects of your life like psychological, emotional and social well-being.
One example of how our body through laughter, positive thinking and a strong belief can heal itself, is embedded in the proverbial story of a sick woman who visited many physicians and took the prescribed antidotes without much effect. She grew weary, tired, troubled and perplexed at herself and her condition, for nobody could diagnose what exactly was wrong. It was at this time she heard of a physician, who lived like a monk far deep in the forest. She travelled a long distance to meet him who gave her a patient ear, nodded his head and said that he had the elixir, a medicine which would cure all her ailments. He took out a crystal bottle which contained pale pink colour liquid. With instructions to be out in the sun, live in the nearby ashram with other patients and sanyasinis (female monks), she was in the pink of health, more healthy, happy and content, after a stipulated period of time frame.
Let us view the story a little differently; the woman represents the disease burden on the medical system, the population at large and her disorders, though real and symptomatic have different roots. Her symptoms represent psychosomatic disorders which plague the system. Her cure is not conventionally possible, it needs a different approach. The need to devise or be appreciative of the alternative systems available to us is more important today than ever before when like in the story the multitude of doctors represent the physicians who try to prune the disease and not uproot it.
Laughter is that alternative therapy to the disease burden that not just India but the entire world is facing. Laughter, like exercise, would bring the shift in eliminating diseases from its roots and not just symptoms. It is not only effective but also cost saving. Laughter alone can transform our nation, decrease disease burden and health expenditure which can be now allocated to treat diseases which are more real. When people are much happier, it improves their quality of life, relationships and reduces their stress levels which inadvertently improves their productivity and increases the GDP of the economy.
When a person smiles or laughs, it is not just a physical action or a line on the lips but it goes deep into the heart. During this laughter, which is akin to an exercise respiration, heart rate and blood pressure temporarily rise causing oxygen to surge and blood pressure to reduce. It improves function of blood vessels thus increasing blood flow and helps protect against heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.
It also boosts the immune system by triggering release of pleasure inducing neurochemicals in brain. During the act of laughter, special cells responsible for defending body against infection increase.
Brain releases endorphins when one is laughing heartily. Endorphins are natural morphine like compound that raise the pain threshold, produce sedation and induce euphoria which reduces physical and mental pain.
It reduces blood sugar levels, increasing glucose tolerance in diabetics and non-diabetics alike.
With a good hearty laugh, the muscles are relaxed for up to 45 minutes. It is also known as inner jogging as it burns calories.
With so many benefits apart from reducing stress, pain, tension, it is all the more necessary that we devise ways to be happier and be appreciative of the little goodness, funny incidents and laugh at ourselves more often.
Laughter, like many of us think, is not only a spontaneous action only performed when there is a subject matter presented to us in the most ludicrous way. Laughter could be induced as can be seen at lots of laughter clubs and professional centres, where laughter therapy is practiced. It can be forced like running, walking briskly, lifting weights, etc. It could be imitated, induced or forced at first but then it will soon transform itself to the real version. Laughter is contagious; it not only brightens up our day but improves the lives of ones we come in contact with.
There are many ways to brighten up our day and help us to laugh more and be positive.
H Smile (it makes one look pretty too)
H Counting our blessings (gratitude should be the attitude to live by)
H Laugh at yourself (it always helps because we learn from our mistakes without over pressurising ourselves)
H Surrounding oneself with positive people
H Gravitating towards places and people where there is laughter.
It is rightly said that laughter is indeed the best medicine. It is not bitter, it needs no sugar coating
for it is sweeter than honey; it requires no extra amount of money but the will and the intent to laugh at the most frivolous things and even to laugh when there is nothing. According to Charlie Chaplin, “A day without laughter is a day wasted”.