Health Benefits of Having Fun
Did you know that prolonged stress can put your health at risk? This is because your body is made to react to stressful situations in ways would keep you safe from predators and environmental dangers. That lurching feeling you get when a dog unexpectedly barks at you is caused by your hypothalamus, a small section at the base of your brain, setting off an alarm response in your body.
This in tern causes your adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol. According to Mayo Clinic, “Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts energy supplies. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, enhances your brain's use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues. Cortisol also curbs functions that would be nonessential or detrimental in a fight-or-flight situation. It alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes. This complex natural alarm system also communicates with regions of your brain that control mood, motivation, and fear.”
Although in modern life we are hardly ever chased by predators, we experience just as much, if not more stress. Consider the stress load of a high pressure job, combined with working hard to make ends meet, providing for our families, driving in traffic, not getting enough sleep night after night, and all of this while trying to pay off the mortgage. Our bodies label all of these stressful events as life-threatening. The Mayo Clinic explains, “The body's stress-response system is usually self-limiting. Once a perceived threat has passed, hormone levels return to normal. As adrenaline and cortisol levels drop, your heart rate and blood pressure return to baseline levels, and other systems resume their regular activities. But when stressors are always present and you constantly feel under attack, that fight-or-flight reaction stays turned on.”
Prolonged stress can cause numerous health problems, including:
- Digestive problems
- Heart disease
- Sleep problems
- Weight gain
- Memory and concentration impairment
Having fun and laughing has been proven to be an effective method of coping with stress. Laughter promotes the health of your heart by lowering your blood pressure, improving breathing, and regulating your heartbeat. Laughter also improves your memory, boosts your immune system, helps you sleep better, and prevents obesity. On top of all this, the body releases endorphins every time you smile. Endorphins are neurotransmitters that send a message of confidence and satisfaction to the brain. Laughter also produces serotonin, a hormone that gives you an all-natural high.
Researchers have also found that the happiest couples have a great deal of fun together. Drs. John & Julie Gottman of the Gottman Institute stipulate that “people are much happier in their relationships if – for every one disagreement or hurt feeling – they create five loving, positive and fun interactions to counter it.”
The positivity that comes from smiling, laughing, and having fun can even make you live longer. A group of American psychologists discovered that positive thinkers live 7.5 years longer than pessimists. According to the study, “constant worrying puts a burden on the heart, increasing one’s chances of giving in to the negative effects of stress.” Dr. Becca Levy of Yale University says, “Having an optimistic attitude towards aging is better than having low blood pressure and cholesterol levels.”
So go ahead, have more fun, and take advantage of the heath benefits of laughter and smiling by enjoying this joke:
Talking Dog for Sale
A guy spots a sign outside a house that reads “Talking Dog for Sale.” Intrigued, he walks in.
“So what have you done with your life?” he asks the dog.
“I’ve led a very full life,” says the dog. “I lived in the Alps rescuing avalanche victims. Then I served my country in Iraq. And now I spend my days reading to the residents of a retirement home.”
The guy is flabbergasted. He asks the dog’s owner, “Why on earth would you want to get rid of an incredible dog like that?”
The owner says, “Because he’s a liar! He never did any of that!”
Joke By Harry Nelson
Mayo Clinic Staff, Stress Management, Mayo Clinic,
Francesca Zapanta, Happiness is Healthy: the Benefits of Having Fun. April 07, 2010. Female Network,
The Psychology of Fun Play and Engagement, January 24, 2014. The James Maples Organization,
Andy Simmons, Hilarious Jokes From the Guys Who Make America Laugh. Joke by Harry Nelson. Reader’s Digest.
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