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Is Laughter the Best Medicine?
When was the last time you had a good laugh? Research has found that children laugh upto 400 times a day, however, adults only laugh about 14 times a day! Are there benefits to laughing more frequently?
Benefits of Laughter
Laughter draws people together in ways that trigger healthy physical and emotional changes in the body. It strengthens your immune system, boosts mood, diminishes pain, and protects you from the damaging effects of stress. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humour lightens your burdens, inspires hope, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert. It also helps you release anger.
Laughter and Health
Laughter doesn’t only make almost every situation brighter – it can also provide multiple physiological and mental health benefits.
Physiological health benefits of laughter:
- Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.
- Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
- Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
- Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.
- Laughter burns calories. Okay, so it’s no replacement for going to the gym, but one study found that laughing for 10 to 15 minutes a day can burn approximately 40 calories—which could be enough to lose three or four pounds over the course of a year.
- Laughter lightens anger’s heavy load. Nothing diffuses anger and conflict faster than a shared laugh. Looking at the funny side can put problems into perspective and enable you to move on from confrontations without holding onto bitterness or resentment.
- Laughter may even help you live longer. A study in Norway found that people with a strong sense of humour outlived those who didn’t laugh as much. The difference was particularly notable for those battling cancer.
Mental health benefits of laughter:
- Laughter stops distressing emotions. It’s difficult to feel anxious, angry, or sad when you’re laughing.
- Laughter helps you relax and recharge. It reduces stress and increases energy, enabling you to stay focused and accomplish more.
- Laughter shifts perspective, allowing you to see situations in a less threatening light. A humorous perspective creates psychological distance, which can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and diffuse conflict.
- Laughter draws you closer to others, which can have a profound effect on all aspects of your mental and emotional health.
There are also some social benefits of laughter:
- People are drawn to laughter
- It’s great for bonding
- It defuses conflict
- It promotes teamwork
How to Have More Laughs
With so much power to heal and renew, the ability to laugh easily and frequently is a tremendous resource for surmounting problems, enhancing your relationships, and supporting both physical and emotional health. Best of all, this priceless medicine is fun, free, and easy to use. Given these benefits, it’d be great to start laughing more. But how does one go about doing that in a way that comes naturally to them? The following small changes in your everyday life may help boost laughter for you and those around you:
- Learn to laugh at yourself. We all make mistakes, and laughter is a great way to brush off an embarrassing moment.
- Expose yourself to humour: watch a funny movie, go to a comedy show, or encourage your friends to tell funny stories.
- Focus on positive things and try to find humour in situations.
- Tell more jokes, or even better, come up with them yourself.
- Read a funny book.
- Ask Siri (or Google) to ‘make you laugh’ (seriously, do it).
- Allow some space in your daily schedule to relax and have a laugh.
As laughter, humour, and play become integrated into your life, your creativity will flourish and new opportunities for laughing with friends, co-workers, acquaintances, and loved ones will occur to you daily. Laughter really is a very effective ‘medicine’.