By Tafi Stober

Laughter is a universal language. No matter of age, culture, creed, or color, laughter unites. It is the effect of relating to others. Some use it liberally while others approach laughter conservatively as if it is a limited resource. No matter the opinion of laughter frequency, it is a proven form of stress relief. 

Published by the Mayo Clinic, here are just some of the short-term side effects that state a case for increasing laughter.

A good laugh has great short-term effects. When you start to laugh, it doesn't just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body. 

  • Stimulate many organs. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.
  • Activate and relieve your stress response. A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response, and it can increase and then decrease your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.
  • Soothe tension. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.

Laughter isn't just a momentary pick-me-up. It also produces long-term health benefits:

  • Improve your immune system. Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. By contrast, positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.
  • Relieve pain. Laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers.
  • Increase personal satisfaction. Laughter can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations. It also helps you connect with other people.
  • Improve your mood. Many people experience depression, sometimes due to chronic illnesses. Laughter can help lessen your depression and anxiety and may make you feel happier.

Put humor on your horizon and supercharge with feel-good hormones. Be intentional with the influences that surround you so that humorous moments lighten your days. When we laugh the world has a way of laughing with us. Find a way to laugh about your own situations and watch your stress begin to fade away. Even if it feels forced at first, practicing laughter is the best way to experience the real thing!

As a point of caution, know what isn't funny. Don't laugh at the expense of others. Some forms of humor aren't appropriate. Use your best judgment to discern a good joke from a bad or hurtful one and keep your relationships energy infused with positive vibes.

The Niswonger Performing Arts Center has been a destination for laughter over the years. Comedians such as Sinbad, Jeanne Robertson, Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood, and many other artists whose on-stage personas kept us laughing throughout the performance. As Van Wert Live prepares for future performances, we value the many benefits of laughter. There are two comedy shows already scheduled for the Fall of 2021. As you await the news of future events, we recommend that you begin practicing the art of the laugh. We promise you will get to use it often when the shows return!