Laughter is the best medicine: The health benefits of humor

This week, specifically April 14th, was International Moment of Laughter Day.

YouTube and other sites are loaded with funny videos that are guaranteed to make you laugh. After spending some time on the site, I could not take my eyes from my computer for a full three hours— I laughed until I cried. Why don't I do this every day? Well, let's face it: No one really has three hours a day to devote solely to laughter, but if we did, we would all be healthier.

The benefits of laughter have been scientifically proven. Scientists have studied brain waves and how they change the disposition in the brain’s happy centers. Harvard Medical School began these studies in the 1970s, and other universities followed.

As you probably already know, endorphins— hormones secreted by the brain and nervous system, which have a number of physiological functions— activate the body's opiate receptors, causing an analgesic effect.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the “high” runners get after pounding the pavement. Well, laughter also releases endorphins— which is great news for people like me who find running difficult! Endorphins reduce the sensation of pain and stimulate positive emotion. Their release is critical for stress relief, and therefore for our mental health.

Laughter increases the oxygenation of the organs, boosts circulation, and contributes to an overall sense of well-being.

I am not encouraging it, but you can make all of this happen while being a couch-potato! Just kidding. You've got to move your body, exercise and eat lots of fresh foods harvested from the earth.

I have an assignment today for each one of you. Watch a funny movie— whether it's a DVD you own or a comedy on TV tonight— or perhaps this is the perfect night to go out to see a film you've been wanting to see.

I want to hear back from all of you. To get everyone psyched and committed to 20 minutes of laughter a day, here’s a funny video to get you started.