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Laughing your way to good health

Do you remember when you were young and you and your friends would laugh and laugh until your belly would ache and tears would stream from your eyes? Every laugh was contagious; it seemed like the more you tried to stop your laughing, the harder you laughed. When was the last time you laughed like that?

On average children laugh 400 times per day, and adults only laugh 15 times per day. So if laughter is so good, why are we not doing more of it? Did you know that when you smile you used 13 different face muscles? Smiling uses the muscles at the corners of your mouth, which changes the flow of blood inside your face; this causes the blood temperature to drop. When this happens, endorphins are released, which helps reduce pain and make you feel good. We've long known that the ability to laugh is helpful to those coping with major illness and the stress of life's problems.

But researchers are now saying laughter can do a lot more — it can basically bring balance to all the components of the immune system, which helps us fight off diseases

What may surprise you even more is the fact that researchers estimate that laughing 100 times is equal to 10 minutes on the rowing machine or 15 minutes on an exercise bike. Laughing can be a total body workout! Blood pressure is lowered, and there is an increase in vascular blood flow and in oxygenation of the blood, which further assists healing.

Laughter also gives your diaphragm and abdominal, respiratory, facial, leg and back muscles a workout. That's why you often feel exhausted after a long bout of laughter — you've just had an aerobic workout!

The psychological benefits of humor are also quite amazing, according to doctors and nurses who are members of the American Association for Therapeutic Humor. People often store negative emotions, such as anger, sadness and fear, rather than expressing them. Laughter provides a way for these emotions to be harmlessly released. Laughter is cathartic. That's why some people who are upset or stressed out go to a funny movie or a comedy club, so they can laugh the negative emotions away.

So if stress is taking over your life, if you are feeling unhealthy, or you just want some relief... laugh! Watch a funny movie, hang around a funny friend, or read the comic strips in the newspaper. If all else fails and you can't seem to get a laugh anywhere, pretend to laugh...out loud. It is the action of laughter, not the mood that your body reacts to, so you can get all of the benefits of laughter even if you're not in the mood to laugh. The more you laugh, the better. The harder you laugh, the better. So let it out! You have nothing to lose and who knows... your health could depend on it.