This article was last updated on September 27, 2016
The holidays are a happy time. It’s a time to celebrate with colleagues, friends, and family. While many enjoy this time of year, for others, the holidays can be a time of great anxiety.
Between going to holiday parties, shopping in crowded stores and malls, putting up decorations, visiting with relatives near and far, the holiday to-do list can be quite daunting. With the busyness of the holiday season, we often forget that we need to take care of ourselves too. Stress can build up quickly and cause harmful effects throughout the body, especially your heart. Some studies have shown that people with certain personality types, for example, those who are hostile or angry, have a higher risk of heart disease.
What is the best way to take care of your heart during this hectic time? While it’s true that a balanced diet and exercise are great for your heart, did you know that laughter is just as important?
How Laughing Benefits Your Heart
Humor is infectious. When laughter is shared, it binds people together and increases intimacy and happiness. It also triggers healthy physical changes in the body. Laughter helps:
- Strengthen your immune system
- Provide an energy boost
- Protect against stress
It quickly brings you back into balance by relaxing the whole body and triggering the release of endorphins. Endorphins are your body’s natural feel-good chemicals. They promote a sense of well-being and can temporarily relieve pain. It also protects your heart by:
- Lowering blood pressure — lowering blood pressure can reduce your risk for heart attack and stroke.
- Reducing stress hormone levels — reducing stress hormones in your body can in higher immune system performance.
- Increasing the number of T-cells — T cells are specialized immune system cells that boost your immune system and help fight off sickness.
- Improving function of blood vessels and increasing blood flow —improved circulation can reduce your risk for heart disease
- Improving overall cardiovascular health — laughter is a great cardio workout, especially for those who are incapable of doing other physical activity. It gets your heart pumping and burns a similar amount of calories per hour as walking at a slow to moderate pace.
Good for Your Health: Creating Opportunities for Laughter
If you don’t laugh as much as you’d like, there are many ways to boost or create a better sense of humor including:
- Getting a dose of humor — watch a funny movie, hang out with your silliest friend, or check out a stand-up comedy show.
- Take a trip down memory lane — reminiscing amusing memories can brighten even the darkest days. If possible, revisit those good times with people who can share in your laughter.
- Host a game night with friends
- Play with a pet
- Attend a laughter yoga class — laughter yoga is an increasingly popular exercise teaches you how to laugh. The more you practice, the more likely you are to laugh throughout the day.
Laughter is a powerful tool to help combat life’s difficulties. When the stress of the holiday season seems overwhelming, remember that something as simple as laughter can relive tension, enhance relationships, and make the holidays a more enjoyable time for you and your loved ones.
Get a healthy start on the new year! Schedule a check-up and get your cholesterol tested to monitor your heart health in 2015. Visit the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute online to learn more about cardiovascular screenings, women’s heart health, and how you can do your part to prevent heart disease.