One day after finishing my college classes, I felt very ill, was nauseous, and had a headache, fever and body aches. Later that day I still had to go to a band practice, I also had a lot of homework to do that night. About an hour before having to leave, I turned on the TV and watched an old rerun of “All in the Family.”
Although I do not remember the episode, I do recall laughing. It was very funny. I laughed a lot. When the show ended, I felt well. I walked across campus to go to my band practice, walked home, ate, and stayed up late that night doing homework. I have often felt that joy is a very important part of my spirituality and health.
A study from the American College of Cardiology found laughing very beneficial to health, having a similar effect to aerobic activity. 95% of the volunteers in the study had better blood flow after watching a comedy. Other studies have shown that laughing benefits the immune system, blood sugar levels, and allows a better night’s sleep.
A recent issue of Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being stated that a review of over one hundred studies has found that –all else being equal – happy people tend to be healthier and live longer. University of Illinois professor emeritus of psychology, Ed Diener wrote, “We reviewed eight different types of studies and the general conclusion from each type of study is that your subjective well-being – that is, feeling positive about your life, not stressed out, not depressed – contributes to both longevity and better health among healthy populations.” He elaborated, “I was almost shocked and certainly surprised to see the consistency of the data. All of these kinds of studies point to the same conclusion: that health and then longevity in turn are influenced by our mood states.”
For example, he quoted a study that followed nearly 5,000 university students for more than 40 years. The study found that the more pessimistic students tended to die younger than their happier peers. Diener stated, “Happiness is no magic bullet, but the evidence is clear and compelling that it changes your odds of getting disease or dying young.”
Diener added, “Current health recommendations focus on four things: avoid obesity, eat right, don’t smoke, and exercise. It may be time to add ‘be happy and avoid chronic anger and depression to the list.”
We all know that our thought affects our health – when we are embarrassed, we blush; when we are sad, a tear forms; if we almost hit another car in traffic, our heart races. There are times when our whole life can change for the better simply as the result of a sudden change of attitude or burst of inspiration. So why shouldn’t happiness have a physical effect upon the body also?
I added “Be happy” to my health list years ago. Happiness and laughter do have a wonderful health-giving power to them. So share your happiness; give someone a needed pat on the back; give us a chuckle, a guffaw or a ho-ho-ho! Come on, be happy, and laugh your way to health!