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Laughter for Health
Posted: 8/16/2018 12:02 PM by
Laughter truly is the best medicine sometimes! In fact, studies have shown that laughter can help relieve pain, bring greater happiness, and even increase immunity. It is estimated that children laugh an average of 300-400 times a day, yet that number plummets for adults, who average about 14 times a day! Laughter can be a useful tool to help us maintain our health and wellbeing. Let’s look at the “why” and then the “how”.
Stress Management Benefits of Laughter
Hormones: Laughter reduces the level of stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline), dopamine, and growth hormone. It also increases the level of health-enhancing hormones, like endorphins. Laughter increases the number of antibody-producing cells we have working for us and enhances the effectiveness of T cells. All this means a stronger immune system, as well as fewer physical effects of stress.
Physical release: Have you ever felt like you have to laugh, or you'll cry? Have you experienced that cleansed feeling after a good laugh? Laughter provides a physical and emotional release.
Internal workout: A good belly laugh exercises the diaphragm, contracts the abs, and even works out the shoulders, leaving muscles more relaxed afterward. It even provides a good workout for the heart.
Distraction: Laughter brings the focus away from anger, guilt, stress, and negative emotions in a more beneficial way than other mere distractions.
Perspective: Studies show that our response to stressful events can be altered by whether we view something as a threat or a challenge. Humor can give us a more lighthearted perspective and help us view events as challenges, thereby making them less threatening and more positive.
Social benefits: Laughter connects us with others. Just as with smiling and kindness, most people find that laughter is contagious. So, if you bring more laughter into your life, you can most likely help others around you to laugh more and realize these benefits as well. By elevating the mood of those around you, you can reduce their stress levels and perhaps improve the quality of social interaction you experience with them, reducing your stress level even more!
How to Use Laughter
Laughter is such a great stress management tool! It's free, convenient, and beneficial in so many ways. You can get more laughter in your life with the following strategies:
Laugh with friends: Going to a movie or a comedy club with friends is a great way to get more laughter in your life. The contagious effects of laughter may mean you'll laugh more than you otherwise would have during the show, plus you'll have jokes to reference at later times. Having friends over for a party or game night is also a great setup for laughter and other good feelings. Making time for this kind of fun is as important as any other habit you keep in your life to support your health, and it's very possibly more enjoyable than most health habits as well.
Find humor in your life: When stressful things happen, consider looking at them in a different light. If something is so frustrating or depressing it's ridiculous, realize that you could 'look back on it and laugh.' Think of how it will sound as a story you could tell your friends, and then see if you can laugh about it now. With this attitude, you may also find yourself being more
lighthearted and silly, giving yourself and those around you more to laugh about. Approach life in a more mirthful way and you'll find you're less stressed about negative events.
Fake it until you make it: Just as studies show the positive effects of smiling occur whether the smile is fake or real, faked laughter also provides the benefits mentioned above. The body can't distinguish between 'fake' laughter that you just start doing on purpose and 'real' laughter that comes from true humor. The physical benefits are exactly the same, and the former usually leads to the latter anyway. So, smile more, and fake laughter; you'll still achieve positive effects, and the fake merriment may lead to real smiles and laughter.
Check Out a Laughter Yoga Class! that’s right! With so much evidence of the positive effects of laughter, there are classes and clubs which use purposeful laughter exercises to maximize these benefits on a regular basis. Laughter Yoga is unique in that it stimulates laughter without jokes, humor or comedy. This leads to the same laughter that young children enjoy 300-400 times a day (often called unconditional laughter). Normal adult laughter is ‘conditional’ – we only laugh if the trigger meets our conditions, for example ‘is it funny?’, ‘is it appropriate to laugh here?’ etc. Conditional laughter requires humor, jokes or comedy as a trigger, which is more difficult and time intensive to achieve. Unconditional laughter can be easily induced, enabling us to reap all of the great benefits of laughter!
Here’s a fun exercise you can try. Its referred to as “Liberated Laughter”. (Bonus for those of you thinking this all sounds a bit silly: nobody else has to know! Ha!): Stand in front of a mirror and look seriously at your face. Then, begin to practice different smiles – big ones, little ones, crooked ones, quick ones, long ones, pretty ones, silly ones, etc. After smiling, begin to practice laughs. Pretend you are an actor and need to laugh for a part you are playing. Try short laughs, loud laughs, chuckles, cackles and snorts. Work at laughing until you feel it becomes real. In time you will become a “Liberated Laugher”, able to tap into that unconditional laughter whenever you need it!
Give it a try! Happy and Healthy Laughing, friends!
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