How can laughter benefit your health?

Are you in bad shape and feeling hopeless? Try laughing more. Some researchers think laughter just might be the best medicine, helping you feel better.

Researchers arent sure if its actually the act of laughing that makes people feel better. A good sense of humor, a positive attitude, and the support of friends and family might play a role, too. But while we dont know for sure that laughter helps people feel better, it certainly isnt hurting.

We change physiologically when we laugh. We stretch muscles throughout our face and body, our pulse and blood pressure go up, and we breathe faster, sending more oxygen to our tissues. People who believe in the benefits of laughter say it can be like a mild workout - and may offer some of the same advantages as a workout.

In the last few decades, researchers have studied laughters effects on the body and turned up some potentially interesting information on how it affects us:

(1) Blood flow: Laughter can help blood vessels to behave normally - expanding and contracting easily.

(2) Immune response: Increased stress is associated with decreased immune system response. Humor may raise the level of infection-fighting antibodies in the body and boost the levels of immune cells, as well.

(3) Blood sugar levels: Laughter can also lower blood sugar levels.

(4) Relaxation and sleep: A few minutes of laughter can allow people suffering from different painful diseases to alleviate pain and sleep well....