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Why Laughter is the Best Medicine

There hasn’t been much reason to laugh over the last year. But, on March 19, give yourself permission to laugh. Whether if it’s infectious, goofy, or annoying, this is to remind yourself that laughter is, in fact, the best medicine.

While this might seem like a more recent statement, the medical field has been examining the importance of humor. In fact, Henri de Mondeville, a professor of surgery, propagated post-operative therapy with humor back in the 1300s. Norman Cousins, a journalist, and a professor, also initiated this trend when he developed his own ‘treatment,’ based on mood elevation through laughter,” writes Kavita Khajuria, MD for Psychiatric Times. “According to Cousins, ten minutes of laughter resulted in two hours of pain-free sleep.”

More recently, science has proven that laughing does in fact come with the following benefits.

Mental health benefits of laughter.

Laughing just feels good. But, it also releases endorphins that can help relieve stress and promotes a sense of well-being. It also activates the release of serotonin which regulates your mood and is a natural antidepressant.

Additionally, laughter also:

  • Eases distressing emotions, such as anxiety, stress, and grief.

  • Defuses anger, conflict, and self-blame.

  • Shifts your perspective by using humor to make scary situations less intimidating.

  • Encourages your to relax, recharge, and have fun.

  • Improves your mood.

Laughter is so beneficial to our mental health, that comedy has been used as a therapeutic tool.

“In fact, a group of psychologists formed the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor (AATH),” notes the Newport Academy. “This group of experts dedicates its time to promoting the use of humor in psychiatric settings to treat serious mental illness.”

“Furthermore, the organization Stand Up for Mental Health uses stand-up comedy to promote healing. Specifically, counselor and comic David Granirer trains people to turn their experiences with mental health challenges into standup comedy routines.”

“Subsequently, they perform their acts at conferences, treatment centers, mental health organizations, college and university campuses, and other venues. As a result, the performers gain a sense of control and self-worth. Moreover, these performances help educate the public about mental health issues and thus reduce stigma.”

Physical health benefits of laughter.

In addition to the mental health benefits, laughter is also good for your physical wellness. Mainly thanks to alleviating stress.

“A good laugh has great short-term effects,” explains the Mayo Clinic Staff. “When you start to laugh, it doesn't just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body. Laughter can:”

  • Stimulate your heart, lungs, and muscles.

  • Cools down the stress response and decreases your heart rate and blood pressure.

  • Can also “stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.”

There are also long-term health effects of laughter, including:

  • Boosting your immune system through the “release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.”

  • Being a natural pain reliever.

  • Protecting your heart. “Laughter lessons the body’s stress responses and has an effect similar to an anti-inflammatory protection of blood vessels, heart muscles, and cardiovascular disease,” says Beth Morris LMSW, MPA.

  • Burning calories. Every 10-15 minutes of laughter can burn 40 calories.

Social benefits of laughter.

And, finally, laughter brings people together and strengthens your relationships. The reason for this is because laughter is contagious, which is attractive and can foster closeness. It also keeps relationships fresh and exciting.

“Couples who can connect through laughter can increase communication skills and tend to stay together longer,” says Morris. “Using laughter and smiles can lead to higher levels of satisfaction in a relationship.” Moreover, laughter can be used to heal disagreements and resentment.

And, according to a 79-year old Harvard study, embracing community is the key to a long and happy life.

Ways to bring more laughter into your life.

Want to add more humor and laughter into life? Here are 8 quick hacks for you to try:

  • Smile more. For example, when walking down the stress, look at a stranger and smile at them instead of staring at your phone.

  • Make humor a priority by watching a funny movie, comedy special, or sitcom. You could also flip through a joke book or attend a comedy club.

  • Hang out with people who are fun, playful, and make you laugh.

  • Practice gratitude.

  • Don’t take life so seriously and laugh at yourself.

  • Spend time with children and pets -- they’re hilarious.

  • Add humor into daily conversations, such as asking your friends or family to share a joke or funny experience.

  • Try laughter therapy or yoga.

How have you incorporated laughter into your life?

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