Laughter is still arguably one of the best things you can do to promote good health and a long life. Following on from our article on smiling last month we thought we’d move on to laughter, write Project Optimism founders Noirin Mosley and Jenny Boylan
Laughing is an optimistic and positive way of ‘really being in the moment’ and enjoying your life, as much as possible – a particularly relevant message for these times.
Three important questions to understand about laughter
What is the actual science behind laughter: how do we laugh?
When you laugh, it doesn’t just lighten your mood, it actually induces physical changes in your body. Laughter can: Stimulate many organs. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain. Laughter also burns calories.
When we laugh, the muscles between our ribs start to perform large, strong contractions. This squeezes air out of us, and makes a noise – each ‘ha ha ha’ in a laugh reflects one of these contractions. We don’t do much else to shape the noise of laughter – it’s a very basic way of making a sound.
Finally, laughter releases powerful endorphins. One recent study on laughter shows that laughing with others releases endorphins in the brain—our own homegrown ‘feel good’ chemicals, via opioid receptors. It’s really good for our bodies. Let’s look now at some more of these benefits.
Smiling actually has scientific health benefits.
What are the benefits of laughing?
Now that we understand how we laugh, what are the mental and physical benefits of laughter?
Physical Health Benefits:
- Boosts immunity
- Lowers stress hormones
- Decreases pain
- Relaxes your muscles
- Prevents heart disease
Mental Health Benefits:
- Adds joy and zest to life
- Eases anxiety and tension
- Relieves stress
- Improves mood
- Strengthens resilience
- Strengthens relationships
- Attracts others to us
- Enhances teamwork
- Helps defuse conflict
- Promotes Group bonding
The ability to laugh, play, and have fun is not only good for your health but makes life more enjoyable and helps you solve problems, connect with others, and think more creatively. People who incorporate humour and play into their daily lives find that it renews them and all of their relationships.
Laughter is an especially powerful method for managing conflict and reducing tension when emotions are running high. Whether with romantic partners, good friends and family, or co-workers, you can learn to use humour to disarm what is happening, lower everyone’s stress level, and communicate in a way that builds up and strengthens your relationships rather than breaking them down.
What are some tips to develop humour and laugh more in your life?
- Watch a funny movie with your friends and family
- Invite your friends out to a funny movie or play.
- Read some comedy books
- Don’t dwell for too long on the negative
- Surround yourself with people who make you laugh
- Share a joke with friends
- Play with your dog or pet
- Do something spontaneous and silly.
- Play and laugh with children
- Do fun activities
- Remember some of the funny things that have happened in your life.
An essential point to remember for developing your sense of humour and laughing more is not to take yourself too seriously and laugh at your own mistakes and shortcomings. We all do foolish things from time to time and nobody is perfect. However, instead of feeling embarrassed or defensive, embrace your imperfections. While some events in life are clearly sad and not opportunities for laughter, most don’t carry a strong sense of either sadness or extreme happiness. They fall into that in between zone of everyday life—giving you the choice to laugh or not. So, choose to laugh whenever you can.
Finally and most of all give yourself permission to really laugh, knowing that it’s good for your mind, body and soul.
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