Remember how, as kids, we laughed countless times a day. But, sadly, as we grow up, life becomes more serious and laughter less frequent. It’s time to turn back the clock! Laughing isn’t just a bit of fun – it can actually improve both our emotional and physical health.
Laughter has been proven to strengthen the immune system, boost our mood, lessen pain, and protect us from the harmful effects of stress.
Some of the ways in which having a good laugh improves our health include:
- relaxing the body by easing physical tension and stress – muscles can remain calm for about 45 minutes after laughing
- powering the immune system by lowering stress hormones, increasing immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thereby improving our resistance to disease
- generating the release of natural feel-good chemicals, called endorphins
- protecting the heart by improving blood vessel function and increasing blood flow, helping to prevent cardiovascular problems and heart attacks.
Emotional and Mental Effects
Laughter is contagious – when we bring laughter into our own lives, we can also have a positive impact on those around us. Think about watching a comedy on TV – if it uses a laugh track, you’re more likely to laugh along. This is because we are wired to laugh when we’re not alone.
As well as bringing people together in this way, laughter strengthens relationships by helping us to be more accepting and forgiving. Facing a challenge or conflict with humor makes it seem more manageable, so laughter can help us to overcome problems, personal or professional, and to rid ourselves of anger and stress. It can also help keep us alert, focused and more grounded.
The good feeling of laughter lingers even after we stop laughing, leaving us open to finding further happiness. It helps us maintain an optimistic and more positive attitude in challenging situations of loss or disappointment, and gives us the strength and courage to discover novel resources of hope and meaning. It can even add years to our expected life span.
Finding the joy
Introducing more laughter into your life is easier than you might think, though it will probably involve you looking up from your phone to get the full benefits! Start by simply smiling more at the world around you. Take a few minutes each day to count the positive things in your life. If you see someone laughing, ask them what was funny (who doesn’t love to share a good joke and laugh again?). Spend time with fun people who can teach you how to laugh at yourself and at ordinary events. Deliberately steer your conversations in the direction of a good laugh, by asking friends what’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened to them. There’s even simulated laughter, such as laugh therapy groups and laugh yoga — why not sign up? Watch videos of stand-up comedians; go to comedy clubs; play with your kids or pets; or do fun activities like miniature golf, bowling, karaoke…. Whatever you do, try to cultivate a positive outlook on life rather than dwelling on the negative. You’ll be laughing it up in no time!