Monday, January 06, 2014


Laughing our way to better health

My favorite Life is Good T-shirt sports the smiling Jake character paddling a kayak.  It says “Full Stream Ahead.”  Advertising for the brand continues, “If it’s not fun, why bother?”

These are stressful times.  Every day we hear about homicides, bombings, political protests, unemployment, foreclosures, bankruptcies, increasingly long lines at soup kitchens and food pantries. Need I go on? 

So maybe it isn’t frivolous to want to have some fun each day; maybe it’s necessary to preserve our mental health.

Even if your stress level is at an all-time high, there are benefits to fun and laughter.  Being aware of the present instead of worrying about past or anticipated stressors allows us to be more open to happiness, laughter and having fun.

Research has shown that laughter reduces the level of stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline), and dopamine.  It also increases the level of healthy hormones like endorphins.  It’s no joke that laughter strengthens our immune systems by increasing the number of antibody-producing cells we have working for us. 

My cousin, Nancy, firmly believes in the power of laughter. While sitting receiving chemotherapy infusions for breast cancer, she read the humorous Janet Evanovich book series, and often erupted into fits of laughter. She credits this with helping her through a difficult time.

Elizabeth Scott, MS, wrote about the social benefits of laughter and stress management, “Laughter connects us with others. Just as with smiling and kindness, most people find that laughter is contagious, so if you bring more laughter into your life, you can most likely help others around you to laugh more, and realize these benefits as well.”

So let’s all resolve to put a little more laughter into each day and reap the health benefits.

Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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