Fall has officially begun and that means along with the cooler temperatures the new lineup of fall comedies have started airing on television. The water cooler talk has already started in my office. But, did you know that watching those funny shows can actually be good for your health? It's true - laughter really is a form of medicine.
Laughing as Exercise
The physical act of laughing kind of works like a light workout for your body. When you laugh, your face muscles stretch, your pulse increases and more oxygen is dispersed to your tissues because you start breathing faster. This isn't an excuse to skip the gym, but laughing can get your heart rate pumping for sure. Any kind of exercise will benefit your overall well-being and reduce stress.
Natural Immune Booster
Getting a good giggle can also boost your immune system and help ward off colds. Low levels of stress and a powerful immune system go hand-in-hand. Studies have shown that infection-fighting antibodies soar in your system with the use of humor. That's because, as I said, when you laugh you increase the oxygen being pumped into your body. The shaking and jiggling associated with laughing helps to clear waste from your organs. That also will help support your immune system.
Good for Your Heart
A recent study out of my alma mater, Loma Linda University in California, found that after one year of watching funny TV shows patients had a 26 percent rise in their good cholesterol. This study also looked at people with diabetes, which can leave you at risk for heart diseases. These patients had lower stress levels and therefore less of a chance of having heart problems.
Mental Health Benefits
A positive attitude and a smile can do wonders when you're in a bad mood. But even if a person suffers from more than just the blues, laughter can have many benefits for your brain. Laughter helps you buffer the negativity that might make you depressed. Endorphins are released every time you laugh - those are the chemicals that make you feel good. Endorphins give you an overall sense of well-being and reduce anxiety.
Numerous studies have found that people who have chronic pain are less bothered by it when they're laughing. It could be that whatever is making them laugh is only a distraction but nonetheless it works. Laughter isn't going to cure your chronic pain, but it can give you some much-needed relief.
To be fair -- there haven't been a ton of studies on this topic. And there are plenty of naysayers out there who say it's just coincidental. But I think there's something to it and having a good laugh certainly can't hurt you. As often as possible, try to find humor in everyday situations even if they're stressful or embarrassing. For instance, when you fall flat on your face in a lobby filled with patients and colleagues at a hospital that you just started working in...oh wait, that didn't happen to you? That's right, it was me. Go ahead - have a chuckle at my expense - doctor's orders.
Dr. Cynara Coomer is the Chief of Breast Surgery & Director of The Comprehensive Breast Center at Staten Island University Hospital. She is also an assistant clinical professor of surgery specializing in breast health and breast cancer surgery at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. She is a FOX News Health contributor providing medical expertise on a variety of topics in cancer research with a focus on women's health, breast diseases and tips for healthy breasts at any age. If you have a question email her at DrCoomer@foxnews.com