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Can a Chuckle a Day Keep the Doctor Away?

By Tony Horton, creator of P90X®
From Team Beachbody - Click here for resources, tools and information to help you to reach your health, fitness and positive lifestyle goals!

So a duck walks into a bar . . . Did you know that there is actually a scientific name for the study of laughter? It's gelotology. Laughter is such an important part of our everyday lives that it can actually make us healthier. Smiling and laughing release all kinds of good chemicals and hormones in our bodies—the physiological and psychological effects are well-documented. And let's face it, laughing at a good joke or situation, funny or not, just plain old makes us feel better. But how does laughter work? And how can we use it to make our lives healthier and happier?

A Girl with a Seal

We actually get exercise when we laugh or smile. Yes, it takes fewer muscles to laugh or smile than it does to frown, but it's much more fun. So for once, I'm telling you to exercise less, smile or laugh more, and you'll be healthier. Laughter is such an important part of my life that I make an effort to surround myself with friends who make me laugh.

Laughing with FriendsResearch shows that laughter actually protects the heart. Researchers don't know exactly why, but studies show that when we're stressed, the endothelium—the protective layer in our blood vessels—decreases, thus allowing cholesterol to build up in our arteries. Heartfelt laughter can lower the serum cortisol released during a stress response and can, therefore, lower the risk of hardening of the arteries. It has also been linked to lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes; it increases antibodies and killer cells in our bloodstreams, thus helping us fight off disease; and it increases blood flow. And get this: Laughing 100 times equals the same aerobic output as 10 minutes on a rowing machine or treadmill.

So how do we use laughter in our daily lives? How do we turn the tide of negativity and stress that so often makes up the bulk of our days? We simply make a choice. Decide in your head that you are going to seek out the positive, the humor in any given situation. Granted, not all situations warrant laughter or smiling. I don't want anyone to get punched. But the next time you see another person, anywhere, smile at him or her. Not only will you feel better, they will too; and it's fun to watch people's reactions. Flood your mind with thoughts that make you smile, a good joke, a friend you haven't seen in a while, a great trip you once took, a goal you reached or are going to conquer—anything positive that will bring a smile to your face or make you laugh. That's half the battle; the body naturally takes over from there. When confronted with a stressful situation, smiling actually reverses the chemical response in your body. And chances are that if you smile, the situation will be diffused before you can even think about stressing out.

In every aspect of your daily life and interaction with others, a smile goes a long way in getting people to do things you may need or want. The next time you get ready to work out, put a smile on your face and think how great it will be, not what a burden. We do make a conscious choice over what emotions we choose to allow to flood our bodies. Laughter and smiling are natural physical responses to those emotions. And now that you know it, laughter and smiling can actually make you feel better and live a longer, healthier life. Well, there's no other choice. Laughter really is the best medicine.

The goal of Team Beachbody is to provide you with solutions to reach your health and fitness goals. Click here to learn more about Team Beachbody Coach Rich Dafter.

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