Artwork by Carrie Brummer, Copyright 2010
I always look forward to lunch and it’s not just for the food (although food is a pretty good reason). Lunch is especially fun this school year because of the smiles and laughter that occur during our 20 something minutes. Now I really value that time. I have not laughed so hard or so often at work in a long, long time. I am also blessed to work with teenagers, which provides its own source of humor (and half of the time, they don’t even know they are being funny!). Apparently all of this laughing is helping my health, too. There is a connection between health and laughter.
Really I could sum up this whole post with one phrase: laughter is good for you. (The End. Wow, this was an easy post this week!) What is my evidence, you ask? Researchers have found laughter appears to relieve tension and stress, boost the immune system, release endorphins and even protect the heart! Consider laughter from the perspective of body and mind:
Laughter reduces emotional stress so you can relax. Remember, how do you recharge (my post one week ago)?
If you can laugh about a situation, you are more likely to be flexible as well as less overwhelmed in unfamiliar or stressful settings.
Laughter builds relationships. Laughing with people creates social bonds that deepen friendships and relationships. Isn’t it interesting that across all cultures, laughter is understood? One researcher, Robert Provine, had his undergraduate students conduct observations about laughter and found that laughter occurred 30 times more often in social situations (as compared to solitary situations). And while laughter did not evolve to make us feel good but as a means to reinforce social bonding, social bonds also decrease stress and increase positive ratings on quality of life.
According to helpguide.org, after a good laugh your muscles will remain relaxed for up to 45 minutes following the event. Researchers like Dr. Lee Berk have actually measured stress hormones before, during and after a humorous event. And even before the event occurred, stress hormones like cortisol were already reduced! One must note, however, this only shows a biological response to comedy, not specifically to laughter (as Robert Provine notes in Psychology Today).
There is evidence that suggests laughter protects the heart. Laughter appears to improve functioning of blood vessels as well as increase blood flow. University of Maryland conducted a study to see how emotions affect blood vessels. The results suggest laughter causes the inner lining of blood vessels to expand and allow greater blood flow. This inner lining, called the endothelium, has a large role in cardiovascular health. Once again this is corollary evidence that suggests comedic situations (not specifically laughter) affect the body. Despite direct evidence, this research suggests laughter is important and integral to our lives.
What do you do to ensure that laughter is in your life? I love being around my sister. For some reason, she actually thinks all of my silly jokes are funny and we are always laughing together. Even though I am in Dubai and she in the United States, we try to make weekly video chat dates to keep updated about eachother. I always look forward to our chats and its my opportunity to keep laughter in my life. Who do you laugh a lot with? Surrounding yourself with people who laugh or who think you are funny is sure to bring more smiles to your day. Who can find complaint in that?!
Artwork by Carrie Brummer, Copyright 2010
Laughter and the Creative Spirit
So many artists harness the moments of anguish or anger in their lives as a means of written or visual expression. I can readily admit I have done this and still do. Often our memories are stronger in moments of pain over joy. But how many of us actually try to harness the joyful moments of smiling and laughter in our art? When I first started to work in portraiture, I almost had a singular interest in children. Why? Because they are these wonderful, joyful, miniature beings that remind everyone how to smile. There is no sound that rings clearer than the giggle of a young one discovering something fun. I still have this love and desire to paint children for that very reason. The act of painting kids even brightens my day!
So, if laughter and smiles are contagious AND bring greater health and happiness to people, why not spread the wealth? Since when do artists have to be associated with madness and grief?! We could be harbingers of healthy change. It is just one more way to make the world a better place. And it is time we all worked toward that worthy goal.
Artist Strong Action: How can you incorporate more laughter into your life? Make a list of things that make you smile or laugh. Start using one of these activities in your every day routine.
Articles referenced in the making of this post: