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Can Laughing Make You Healthier? Why Laughter Really Is the Best Medicine

Updated on June 4, 2017
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Sadie Holloway is exploring how to live more intentionally, everyday. Her favorite self-help authors are Deepak Chopra and Julia Cameron.

Laughter as an Inner Resource

Laughter is instinctive. It's natural. It's often an involuntary response to funny, confusing, scary, or emotionally charged situations. As children, we laughed freely without worrying about what anyone thought. As adults, though, many of us have forgotten how to laugh and be playful, especially at work or in high-stress situations.

Your sense of humor is one of your most powerful inner resources. The great thing about cultivating this inner resource is that it is there whenever you need it: it works fast and it is free! A healthy sense of humor can inspire hope and optimism while also keeping you grounded in what's really important. It can help you to overcome challenges and create more balance in your life.

Laughter helps refresh the mind and put things into perspective.
Laughter helps refresh the mind and put things into perspective. | Source

Effects of Laughter

From a physiological perspective, a healthy sense of humor can protect you from the long-term, damaging effects of stress. In times of challenge and uncertainty, developing your sense of humor is essential if you want to:

  • Cope with disappointment and unexpected setbacks effectively
  • Reduce fear and anxiety
  • Nurture personal relationships and develop emotional connections with others
  • Boost your immune system
  • Maintain stable energy levels that can carry you through difficult situations
  • Improve your circulation
  • Relax tense muscles and improve your breathing pace
  • Reduce feelings of fear, stress and anxiety for both you and the people around you
  • Strengthen your interpersonal relationships and deepen emotional bonds with others
  • Create common ground and shared experiences with people from different backgrounds and life experiences

Bring Humor Into Your Life

Your success in life isn’t just determined by how often you “win.” It’s also determined by your ability to handle yourself when things don’t turn out the way you had hoped. Cultivating a sense of humor when faced with bad news, loss, or unexpected conflicts can help you to put things into perspective and focus on what’s really important.

Practice tickling your funny bone every day. Believe it or not, in most situations, even the most stressful moments, we always have the opportunity to choose whether to laugh or not. You can learn to bring more humor and ease into your life by practicing the following:

  • Laugh at yourself. It's easier to laugh at yourself and your own embarrassing moments before someone else does. When you laugh first, you own the moment with full awareness. Your response is the one that sets that tone for how others will perceive the situation. Don't be afraid to share your embarrassing moments with others, even strangers. Secretly, other people like to know that they aren't the only ones who make mistakes.
  • Seek out and surround yourself with positive people.
  • Collect photographs, posters, cartoons and and images that make you smile.
  • Accept what you can't control. Always remember that you can not control other people's reactions to situations. All you can do is hope that your infectious sense of humor and happy-go-lucky attitude will be contagious.
  • Express your gratitude daily. Make a list and reflect upon all the things that are good in your life.

Source

Putting Things Into Perspective

Here are 4 questions that will help you change your focus when faced with a challenge. On a scale of 1-10 (1 = insignificant; 10 = major, threat of death), where would I place this problem?

  1. Does this problem clash drastically with any of my own personal values? If yes, then action may be needed. If no, then move to the next question.
  2. How significant will this problem be in six months?
  3. Is this situation really my problem? Do I even have a right to call it my problem?
  4. Is my current response helpful and appropriate?

Put Laughter on Your Daily To-Do List!

Just as we schedule exercise and work related activities, we need to make time for humor and laughter. Here are some things you can do to bring more laughter and lightness into your day:

  • Watch 30-minute reruns of your favorite old-time sitcoms. From "Gilligan's Island" to "Good Times," indulging in a bit of nostalgic humor is a quick way to boost your mood and let go of your worries for awhile.
  • Read humor columnists in your daily newspaper.
  • Not everyone agrees with political cartoons or necessarily finds them funny but you may discover that political cartoons can shed light on difficult subject matter or open your mind to other perspectives.
  • Turn to the funny pages and read your favorite comic strips from your childhood.
  • Find a clean, age appropriate joke that you can tell the kids in your life (your kids, grandkids, neices, etc). Chose a joke that is easy to remember and if the kids like the joke, encourage them the tell it to others. But remember, children's minds are like little sponges and they have an uncanny ability to repeat things adults say without knowing what they are saying. That's why it's important to only tell jokes that a G rated.
  • Sign up for daily email jokes, quotes, and quips.
  • Learn more about the power of laughter yoga and try adding it to your daily routine. The video below offers insights on the benefits of laughter yoga. For more tips, resources and basic laughter yoga exercises, visit www.laughteryoga.org.

(Source: Laughter is the Best Medicine, Helpguide.org)

Have you heard about the power of laughter yoga?

A day without laughter is a day wasted.

— Charlie Chaplin

10 Reasons Laughter Makes Life Better

  1. Smiling makes you attractive. It is easier to approach someone who is smiling at you instead of frowning.
  2. Laughter and smiling improve your mood. What your body is doing on the outside determines what is going on inside!
  3. A friendly smile or a warm laugh is contagious. People like to smile back at people who are smiling at them.
  4. Smiling relieves stress. Try holding a negative though in your head while you have a smile on your face. Betcha can't do it!
  5. 5miling makes you healthier! Smiling boosts your immune system and improves your mental and physical health.
  6. Smiling lowers your blood pressure.
  7. Smiling causes positive chemical reactions in your body. Smiling releases serotonin and endorphins: hormones that act as natural painkillers and improve mood.
  8. Smiling makes you look more youthful. Smiling adds tone and color to your face and cheeks.
  9. Smiling makes you look successful. A warm and sincere smile sends the message that you're secure, confident and open-minded. People who are able to laugh at themselves are often viewed as more authentic and approachable than people who don't laugh as often.
  10. Smiling is free! It doesn't cost anything to smile!

Let laughter and lightness lead the way to a happier, healthier, more holistic life. An ability to find joy, lightness, and laughter during times of great change, unrest or conflict is a powerful internal resource that you can draw on, again and again.

Telling a joke to a child and watching his face light up with laughter is one of the best feelings in the world!
Telling a joke to a child and watching his face light up with laughter is one of the best feelings in the world! | Source

Sources

Helpguide.org, "Laughter is the Best Medicine: The Health Benefits of Humor and Laughter."

Mann, Natasha, "Benefits of smiling: Why turning that frown upside down could be better for your health than you realise," Netdoctor.co.uk, May 27 2009.

© 2016 Sadie Holloway

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