If you had asked me on Friday afternoon what my plans were for the evening, I would have grumbled that I have every intention of staying at home to catch up on some TiVo and then go to bed early. It had been a long week with moments of tension at work and I was entirely worn out. When I arrived home, take-out in hand, I was greeted by one of my housemates chirping about how he had an open day on Saturday (a rare treat for him) and he intended to enjoy a carefree evening. At the time, I gave a brief smile and nod -- not fully aware of the events that were about to unfold.
Within the hour, my other house mate arrived home and the two boys quickly agreed that take-out from the local Mexican dive would be a great idea as would some White Russians in honor of an impromptu viewing party of The Big Lebowsky. One took on the task of bartending and setting up the movie while the other came home with an entire pie tin full of guacamole, confident that this might be light for the level of supposed starvation that the boys were experiencing at the time. To further add to antics of the evening, the couple of friends that soon arrived were apparently all musically inclined and readily picked up guitars stationed by the dining table and my housemate sat down at his keyboard to play, what was later deemed, an impromptu rock opera.
I couldn't help but smile and laugh at the joy in the room -- it was palpable. Laughter and music and the smell of carne asada had enveloped the room. I laughed throughout the night and felt my stress and gloom melt away from me. I slept that night for nearly 9 hours and woke up feeling the most refreshed I had been in weeks.
As we continue our series on health and well being, I want to trend from the more expected topics of healthy eating habits and exercise (both still important) to something that we might not place on our 'To Do' list on a regular basis but can have incredibly powerful physical and psychological affects on our body: laughter.
Scientific research has shown that the physical act of a 'Ha Ha Ha' releases endorphins -- the same chemical released when exercising -- which has the ability to enhance our moods. A New York Times article from September of 2011 even goes so far as to discuss a study performed by a psychologist at Oxford University that proves, through a series of field studies, that humans can increase their pain tolerance and resiliency if they have experienced laughter and joy just before the onset of the pain or injury.
Based on the level of endorphins that perhaps helped me ease into that sound sleep on Friday night, I would immediately agree with this Oxford doc! So now, as I continue to focus on having a healthier lifestyle leading into the summer season, when we want to look and feel our best, I must encourage the simple act of laughing more often. It's a productive and healthy habit! And who knows, perhaps if you achieve that deep belly laugh then you will get yourself a little ab workout as a bonus!