“I have decided to be happy, because it’s good for my health” – that quote from Voltaire couldn’t be more accurate, or relevant in these times. Never in recent history have people across the globe needed a good laugh more than now. It’s the quickest and easiest way to boost your mood. But as well as making you happier, there are multiple health benefits of laughter. It can even reduce pain and help you live longer. And it’s limitless and free!
Babies smile and laugh often – joy is their natural state. Sadly though adults tend to lose that spontaneous connection to their inner joy – double shame actually given the multiple physical health benefits of laughter. So this month we’re challenging you to laugh more – shouldn’t be too hard given that 2020, one of the worst years in memory, is on its way out and Christmas is coming.
Laughter boosts the immune system
One minute of laughter is said to boost the immune system for 24 hours! How so? Studies have shown that belly laughter creates the ideal breathing motion in the diaphragm to produce a vacuum effect which pulls the lymph through the bloodstream. This, in turn, speeds up the elimination of toxins in the body by up to 15 times. What’s more, it also increases the production of white blood cells and antibodies giving better immunity and protection against diseases.
Laughter produces feel good hormones
Seriously friends, laughter is cheap medicine! The deep breathing movement of the diaphragm in laughter also engages the parasympathetic nervous system. This signals the reduction of stress hormones, such as cortisol, and the production of endorphins, the ‘feel good’ hormones such as serotonin and dopamine. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain. So stress and anxiety goes and happiness flows!
Laughing is good for your heart
When you laugh there’s a contraction of muscles, which increases blood flow and sends more oxygen to the tissues. This stimulates the heart and lungs. Research has shown that laughter also has an anti-inflammatory effect that protects blood vessels and heart muscles from the damaging effects of cardiovascular disease.
One laughter researcher, William Fry, claimed it took ten minutes on a rowing machine for his heart rate to reach the level it would after just one minute of hearty laughter.
More physical health benefits of laughing
- Laughter sends dopamine to the brain to provide a sense of pleasure, and that in turn changes brainwave activity to gamma frequency which boosts memory and recall.
- Laughing often can help you live longer – studies in Japan and Norway indicate that those who laugh more live longer.
- In diabetes research, watching comedy was found to lower blood sugar.
- A belly laugh increases digestive juices which aids digestion.
- Laughter decreases pain – both by increasing endorphins, which are natural opiates, and by distracting the mind from it.
- Laughter relieves physical tension and relaxes your muscles for up to 45 minutes.It burns calories – research found that 15 minutes of laughter a day will burn up to 40 calories.
The emotional & mental health benefits of laughter
Since laughing triggers all the things in the body that make you feel good, it’s great for your emotional wellbeing too. It raises your mood instantly and these good feelings stay around after the belly laugh is over.
Laughter helps you keep a positive mind-set in the face of challenging times, disappointment or grief.
Laughter helps put problems into perspective so you don’t feel overwhelmed. It gives you hope.
It’s an amazing tool to help you deal with what life throws at you. It helps you become more resilient because you know you have a tool you can call upon easily to make you feel better instantly, whatever is happening around you.
Laughter relieves stress
Laughing relieves mental anxiety and stress and can help with depression. It both breaks through repetitive negative thinking patterns and dissolves distressing emotions. That’s why the funny animal videos on Youtube are so popular – instant therapy when you are feeling down! Research has shown that one second after we start laughing, our cerebral cortex releases electrical impulses that block the passage of negative thoughts.
And if you can’t manage a laugh, just a smile starts to shift things. If you smile, even if you’re in a bad mood, it will immediately improve your mood because the simple action of thinking about smiling and using those muscles is enough to trigger happy chemicals in the brain.
Laugh at yourself to silence your inner critic
Significantly, by learning to laugh at yourself, you can boost your own self-esteem. You take the sting out of your internal critic and start to judge yourself less harshly. When you can laugh at your own mistakes and the embarrassing things that happen to you, you start to embrace your imperfections and love yourself a bit more.
Laughter enhances social relationships
“What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul. Laughter is the shortest distance between two people”. Victor Borge
Laughter unites people in difficult times and gives them common ground beyond all differences of language and culture. It’s a universal form of communication – everybody laughs the same in every language. Shared laughter and humour is a great way to break the ice with new people and establish a connection. It’s an excellent tool for group bonding and to promote teamwork.
Shared laughter is a powerful way to heal divisions between people as it helps them release anger, forget resentments and be more forgiving. It can help diffuse difficult situations and resolve conflict. Surprising how many comedians say they became the class clown to win over the school bullies.
According to studies, it’s 30 times easier to laugh in the company of others, so get together with friends on Zoom or in your social bubble and laughter will flow.
Laughter is contagious – it encourages social interaction, which has a positive effect on mental and emotional health too. It strengthens relationships and shared humour brings you closer to others. What’s more, laughter really is contagious. Just hearing others laugh primes your brain and gets you ready to smile and laugh too. Furthermore, shared laughter spreads endorphin release through groups of people and so promotes a sense of togetherness and safety. Laughter spreading through a group is like endorphin dominoes. So the more laughter you can bring into your own life, the happier those around you are going to feel.