When you and a friend/s have those long bouts of uncontrollable laughter that end in tears and aching stomach muscles you are actually doing something really healthy for yourselves!
Research has shown that the health benefits of laughter are far-ranging. Studies so far have shown that laughter can help relieve pain, bring greater happiness, and even increase immunity. Positive psychology names the propensity for laughter and sense of humor as one of the 24 main signature strengths one can possess.
Unfortunately, many people don't get enough laughter in their lives. In fact, one study suggests that healthy children may laugh as much as 400 times per day, but adults tend to laugh only 15 times per day.Other studies find us laughing a little more than that, but if you ask me, virtually all of us could use a little more laughter in our lives, considering how beneficial a good laugh can actually be for our stress levels and overall wellness.
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. A good 10 minute or longer belly laugh can burn between 10-40 calories per 10 minutes! And, 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 a free, convenient and beneficial stress management strategy that we need to implement daily! 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: Instead of complaining about life's frustrations, try to laugh about them. 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.
- Media: There's no shortage of laughter opportunities from entertainment, both at the theater as well as at home with streaming movies and T.V. comedies. While wasting your time watching something marginally funny may actually frustrate you, watching truly hilarious movies and shows is an easy way to get laughter into your life whenever you need it. You may want to share your recommendations with friends and you'll have something to reference and laugh about together.