Benefits of Laughter
By: Krystle Dickerson
You’ve probably heard it said that laughter is the best medicine. The reality of this phrase is evident in ongoing research through top institutions such as Mayo Clinic, that laughter is a major player is staying healthy. Not only is laughter a great way to relieve stress and reduce anxiety, but there are physical changes that happen in your body when you laugh that can have lasting effects on your well-being.
Physical Benefits of Laughter
Have you ever laughed so much that it hurt? Laughed to the point of your abdominal walls getting a work out and feeling like you just did an hour of cardio because you can’t catch your breath? Laughing and having fits of laughter has many great physical benefits such as organ stimulation, relieve your stress system, and help to soothe muscular tension. Not to mention, there are many long-term benefits of laughter such as an improved immune system, pain relief, and improved mental health.
When you laugh, you inhale more oxygen which stimulates vital organs such as the heart, lungs, and brain because more endorphins are released into your blood stream. The act of laughter also improves circulation which can soothe the physical symptoms of stress like tension and muscle aches. Laughing also makes us feel relaxed because of the relief in our stress response system that increases our heart rate and blood pressure. Mayo Clinic has even recommended laughter to help with stress management because of the proven effects on how positive thoughts can cause chemical reactions like releasing more neuropeptides which fight illness and stress. These chemicals reactions also help with chronic pain management and can reduce a person’s need for painkillers over long term when produced often.
Psychological Benefits of Laughter
Not only is laughter like a form of exercise for us physically, but there are also many psychological benefits that stem from laughing. Researchers such as Norman Cousins have found regularly laughing while watching comedy movies or attending standup comedy routines helped to increase sleep and sleep quality. Laughter has also been shown to help dull pain which puts people in a generally better mood and allows them to participate in more activities that improve their quality of life.
Laughter is a social activity. We laugh the most when others are laughing with us. There are many mental health benefits that come from having positive social interactions such as confidence, leadership skills, emotional support from others, higher satisfaction levels, lower rates of depression, and camaraderie. Laughter is contagious so the more you find yourself laughing, the more the people around you will be laughing too. This helps lower everyone’s stress levels and releases endorphins that make people relaxed, happy, and less emotional. This is a very positive outcome when dealing with large groups of people.
How Can You Laugh More?
Do you often feel like you are the only one in the room that doesn’t get the joke or gets it way after the punch line? Are you often feeling left out because you aren’t the “funny one” in your group of friends? Do you shy away from comedies because you don’t enjoy the humor? There are many people in your shoes who feel as though they don’t have a great sense of humor and want to improve it, especially after knowing the physical and mental benefits of laughter. There are ways to incorporate more humor and laughter into your daily life that will find you at least cracking a smile more often.
· Attend a live comedy show! Are there comedy clubs or bars with open mic nights in your area? Going out for an evening of live comedy is one of the best ways to get a good laugh in. You’re surrounded by lots of other patrons who are laughing and smiling as well so you can enjoy the positive energy that is radiating off of everyone else too! Surrounding yourself with positivity can be great for increasing your satisfaction with life in general and smiling more often.
· Spend more time with friends and family that make you laugh. The people that you are happiest around should be the people who you spend the most time with. If you are surrounding yourself with negative people or finding that you are more highly stressed around certain people, its time to take a close look at your inner circle. Sharing laughter with friends is a good way to increase your own sense of humor as well.
· Find comics, memes, or jokes that you find funny and put them up around your workspace. Any time you are feeling stressed or anxious on the job, or need a break from annoying customers (and bosses) you can look towards your laughter inspiration board for ways to get your mind in a more positive place.
· Practice laughing. This may seem a little silly and forced at first but forcing laughter and smiling will get you in the habitat of laughing more comfortably and naturally more often. There are places that offer laughter Yoga where laughter is practiced as a group. These places are more common in larger cities.
· Talking to someone about your stresses and troubles can help to ease your burdens and get your mind off negativity. If you don’t have a counselor or trusted person to talk to, try journaling and then follow that activity up with reading something humorous or light hearted. You’ll be able to relieve stress and fill that space up with laughter right away. Remember not to take life too seriously, we all suffer through bad times. Try to laugh at your own misfortunes and be around people who make you feel confident, happy, and energetic.
· Play with your kids. Parents often forget how funny their children are and how often they can make us smile. If you have older children, consider going to a funny live comedic play at the local community theater or taking a trip to the movies to see the newest comedy for families. Kids love seeing their parents laughing and happy.
· If you’re not ready for kids or don’t want them, get a pet. Having a companion like a dog or cat can brighten your day and make you smile more often. If you can tolerate the house training, puppies are some of the funniest animals you could ever meet and will definitely bring lots of smiles and laughter to your life.
Laughing will come naturally to your life the more you actively try to practice. Check out your local newspapers or social groups to find schedules of comedy nights, theater and movies that you can enjoy with your friends and family.