I like to laugh.  But when I’m stressed, it seems that laughter isn’t high on my list of priorities.  Come to find out, it should be.
I wanted to pass along an article written by Shari Lopatin who works at TriWest Healthcare Alliance.  Not only does she explain the health benefits associated with laughter, but she also lets us know that there are TRICARE services available for those times when we need someone to talk to about our stress.  Take a look.

Release Stress with this Everyday Activity

By Shari Lopatin
TriWest Healthcare Alliance
The next time you’re laughing with your friends at a funny joke, you’re helping your heart—literally.
Your body’s arteries—the blood vessels which carry oxygen-filled blood from the heart to the rest of your body—respond to laughter in a positive way, according to a Harvard Health Letter published in November 2010. In fact, laughter could improve blood flow and long-term, overall health.
Studies are also showing how laughter not only improves your mental well-being, but makes your heart smile too.
Heart Disease Patients Laugh Less?
In 2000, the University of Maryland Medical Center published the first study stating that laughter may help prevent heart disease. In it, researchers found that people with heart disease were 40 percent less likely to laugh, in any situation, than people of the same age without heart disease.
Those with heart disease were actually less likely to recognize humor at all. They also tended to display more anger and hostility in general.
Laughter and Stress Reduction
Psychology experts commonly agree that laughter and humor are great ways to help reduce stress. According to a 2005 report published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, stress can cause one’s blood pressure to rise. High blood pressure is at least twice as strong a predictor of death as smoking or high cholesterol.
That’s why relieving stress on a regular basis is important to keeping one’s blood pressure down.
“Humor is absolutely a coping strategy for dealing with stress and adversity,” said Dr. Blake Chaffee, a psychologist and the vice president of Integrated Health Care Services at TriWest Healthcare Alliance. “If you can see the humor in something, you can mitigate the stress and the negative effects it has on you.”
Chaffee said if not dealt with, stress can put people at an increased risk of:
• Heart disease
• Sleep problems
• Digestive problems
• Depression
• Obesity
Need Additional Help De-Stressing?
If the stresses of life are getting to you, and you find yourself struggling to cope, you may be eligible for the TRICARE Assistance Program, or TRIAP. This program offers non-medical, but professional counseling via chat, phone, or the Web. With an Internet-connected computer and a Webcam, you can talk to licensed therapists about issues such as stress or relationship problems. These discussions are completely non-reportable (unless required by law) and are available 24/7/365—so you can make an appointment that works with your schedule.
Think you want more information? Curious to see if you’re eligible? Visit http://www.tricare.mil/triap.
Shari Lopatin has worked for more than three years as a health writer and media relations professional in beneficiary education at TriWest Healthcare Alliance. TriWest administers the military’s TRICARE health benefit to 2.7 million service members and their families in 21 western states. Prior to TriWest, Ms. Lopatin worked as a daily newspaper reporter and still writes for various magazines today. She takes great pride and satisfaction in her work at TriWest: writing to help educate our country’s most humble heroes—those who wear the uniform and the family members who serve alongside them.

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