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Brene Brown, well-known emotions researcher and TED talk presenter, has launched a new podcast.
In a recent episode, she describes her family’s “gap plan.” It’s what they do when they realize that they are all exhausted, physically and emotionally, and need to hunker down and take care of themselves.
They sleep more, eat better, and exercise.
And, they tell more knock-knock jokes.
No kidding. That is part of their written plan. “More puns and knock-knock jokes.”
It’s likely that her kids came up with that one. But they are wise beyond their years.
The truth is, laughing is healthy. Research has proven that it strengthens our immune system, reduces stress hormones, and acts as a natural antidepressant.
And, a good laugh offers a healthy distraction from anger, guilt, stress and other negative emotions, something we all could use right about now.
How laughter helps your immune system
There’s actually a pretty simple anatomical explanation for why laughing is good for your immunity.
It all has to do with your lymphatic system, the backbone of your immune system.
The lymphatic system is a network of very fine vessels located just under the skin and above the muscles. Its job is to continually collect waste materials from all over the body (dead cells, pathogens, toxins, etc.)
Your lymph nodes are the “cleaning stations” along these pathways. They are located in your armpits, neck, chest, abdomen and groin.
The lymph nodes produce white blood cells to clean the fluid, antibodies to protect against future “invaders,” and macrophages, which gobble up all sorts of unwanted debris.
Unlike the circulatory system, where blood is pumped by the heart, the lymphatic system has no pump. It depends upon deep breathing and the movement of the diaphragm to circulate lymphatic fluid.
A good belly laugh is one of the best, safest and most fun ways to accomplish this. More lymphatic fluid flowing through the system means more white blood cells (including natural killer, or NK cells) are produced, and immunity is stronger.
Other health benefits of laughter
Laughter releases endorphins. Endorphins are your brain’s natural anxiety medicine. They bind to opioid receptors in the brain, and create a relaxed, even euphoric feeling, but much more safely than prescription opioids do.
Laughter builds brain connections. As our brain works to figure out the reason for the laughter we’re hearing – is it taunting laughter, joyous laughter, or nervous laughter? – it’s forming new connections between brain regions.
Laughter is a natural antidepressant. Laughing activates the release of serotonin, the same neurotransmitter that’s increased by SSRIs, the most common type of antidepressant.
But SSRIs can clog your heart and arteries. A good laugh is a much safer choice and much more fun!
How to get more humor in your life
Having more good laughs may seem like a simple thing. But it certainly shouldn’t turn into a chore.
Here are a few good ways to take this “medicine” every day
Movies. Everyone has a few favorite films that just make them roll with laughter. Now would be a great time to break out the popcorn and watch your favorite side-splitter!
Friends. There’s nothing better than reminiscing and re-telling “do-you-remember-when” stories with good friends. Nowadays, you can do this by phone or video chat. Make it a regular date!
Social media memes and videos. If you’re a social media user, you’ll find an abundance of humorous videos or memes poking fun at everything and anything. One is sure to tickle your funny bone. Take a break from the news and check one out.
Here’s a personal favorite of mine: Pluto the Talking Dog
- Humor and Laughter May Influence Health IV. Humor and Immune Function — Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
- Why Laughter Is Good For The Immune System, Opens Inner Cellular Pharmacy — Laughter Online University
- Six Science-Based Reasons Why Laughter Is The Best Medicine — Forbes