- Reduces levels of stress hormones (something that those with ME/CFS have a lot of trouble with)
- Triggers the release of endorphins, which cause a cascade of positive physical effects in the body and brain
- Reduces your blood pressure, if it's high
- Improves the immune system and boosts T-cells (something we definitely need!)
- Improves mood and acts as a natural anti-depressant
- Improves cardiac health and works your abs! (now there's a work-out we can do)
- Reduces anxiety
- Improves breathing
This laughter-filled TED Talk by Sophie Scott, Why We Laugh, explores the underpinnings of laughter - why we do it, different types of laughs, responses in our brains, and how laughter is contagious:
I think she is right about laughing more and harder when you're with others because some of my biggest and best bouts of laughter come when I am with my family and we are telling a story we've all heard 100 times - we will all get laughing so hard that tears are streaming down our faces!
My son and I have often used "laughter therapy" throughout the long years of our chronic illnesses. When he was younger and home from school for weeks (or months) at a time, we'd watch old TV shows on TV Land. Many of them made us laugh, but our favorite was I Love Lucy - it could get us belly laughing on our worst days! This was one of our all-time favorite scenes, from an episode when Ricky thinks he's losing his hair, so Lucy gives him a series of "treatments":
ha ha ha - gets me every time! Old scenes from the Carol Burnett show - especially those featuring Tim Conway - have the same effect on me. Look up the dentist skit or Carol Burnett Show bloopers, which are mostly the cast members cracking each other up - Sophie Scott is right - laughter is contagious! Oh, never mind - I have to include one more clip:
For more funny (and more current) TV shows, check out my list of TV Reviews and scroll down to comedies.
With movies, our go-to for our worst days is Planes, Trains and Automobiles, starring John Candy and Steve Martin. We can pretty much quote the entire movie from start to finish but it still keeps us laughing out loud, sometimes so that we can hardly catch our breath! Every scene in this movie makes us laugh, but this one is a favorite:
We quote that scene to each other all the time between the four of us! For more funny movies, check out my list of Movie Reviews and scroll down to comedies.
I also love books that make me laugh, even if they are also sad in parts. Some of my favorite laugh-out-loud novels include (reviews - with no spoilers! - at the links):
- Be Frank with Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson
- The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
- Us by David Nicholls
- The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick (all of Quick's novels are both moving and funny)
- The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise by Julia Stuart
What makes YOU laugh? What are your favorite go-to sources for laughter when you need a pick-me-up?