Imagine I told you I had a new medicine that could help you do the following:
- Lose weight
- Boost metabolism
- Relieve depression
- Lower blood pressure
- Decrease stress hormones
- Increase immune cells
- Increase infection fighting antibodies
- Improve resistance to disease
- Increase productivity
- Release endorphins
- Improve overall sense of wellbeing
- Temporarily remove or ease pain
- Improve social life
You’d be quite impressed. The less moral amongst us may see a money-making opportunity in the pharmaceutical market (the mark up on such a product would be incredible!) In fact, I bet some of you would say this sounds like the best medicine ever.
And you’d be right; ‘Laughter is the best medicine.’
Ask almost anyone and they will tell you that laughing is absolutely one of the best feelings in the world. Scientifically speaking, the release of endorphins is the main cause of this and it’s no wonder. Assuming you have an equal dosage of both chemicals, endorphins have a more powerful effect than morphine.
Have you ever laughed so much that your stomach muscles were in pain? It feels like you’re laughing your way to a six-pack, doesn’t it? That’s because you are! Laughing 100 times a day has the same effect as a 10-minute blast on the rowing machine or 15 minutes on an exercise bike.
This is a particularly difficult piece to write as an adult male given our apparent reluctance to laugh. Women laugh 125% more than men which may be partly due to the psychological desire of males to make females laugh. Particularly startling for both genders is the decrease as we get older.
As children, we laugh on average 400 times per day. How many times do you think we laugh on average as an adult? It’s certainly not 400. 200? Nope. 100? Nope. 50? 20? …It’s 17…
That’s no laughing matter. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that those who laugh the least and those who have the lower life expectancy rate are the male population.
It may seem extreme to suggest laughter can prolong life (although it can) and there are many other factors that play a part, but I genuinely believe it can give a purpose in life.
There are those who take meaning from their children, their job, religion and elsewhere. However, I assure you as an adult, male, childless atheist with previous jobs I didn’t enjoy a great deal, sometimes a good chuckle was the thing I looked forward to and cherished in life.
Whether it was watching a comedian on television, having a random memory pop into my head or quite simply spending time with friends telling stories and jokes there really is no substitute for laughter.
One day that sticks in my head is the day at university I realised I no longer wanted to be a PE teacher. Being three years into a four year course named ‘PE teaching’ that was a bit of an issue. Another issue was telling my PE teacher mother having to find out the news.
As I sat in my living room feeling pretty down I was comforted by my favourite show coming on, Scrubs. There are 169 good episodes of Scrubs (the 13 in season 9 will not be acknowledged) and of all the episodes to play…
Season 4 Episode 17 (‘My Life in Four Cameras’) revolves around the treatment of former ‘Cheers’ writer Charles James (fictional, based on the real writers’ surnames). Cleverly mimicking the traditional American sitcom format throughout the episode, several issues are very conveniently resolved by the end.
In a tragic snap back to reality, things actually don’t work out well including the death of Mr. James. Despite all the things getting to the main character, the episode closes with him finding solace and comfort in the laughter from an episode of Cheers.
Sitting watching this, the irony was not lost on me and it is a lesson that has stuck ever since; ‘What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul.’
Make laughter a bigger part of your day, make it a bigger priority. Next time you make a to-do list for your day write down laughter, and it doesn’t get ticked off until you reach at least 100 laughs, giggles or snorts.
Please help yourself to the free medicine. Prescribe it to others. Let the cure itself become an epidemic.
Stuart Fenwick (@StuFenwick7)
Motivational Speaker at Tree of Knowledge (@tree_of)