Listening time 5:15
“Laughter is the fireworks of the soul.” – Josh Billings“
Yes, it is a laughing matter. There’s not much that feels better than a whole-hearted, side splitting, bent over, air gasping belly laugh. But even the smallest giggle can work wonders. In addition to lifting our mood, improving our focus, strengthening our relationships and promoting creativity, laughing can prompt physical changes in our bodies – strengthening our immune system, relieving pain and alleviating the negative effects of stress. A hardy cackle exercises the diaphragm, as well as facial, leg, back, and abdominal muscles.
Children laugh freely and often. As adults we tend to become more serious. This may be one reason many of us enjoy playing with children – they free us from our serious nature and draw us back to our hilarity-loving childhood selves. By seeking out more opportunities to let go and be amused, we can improve our emotional health, strengthen our relationships, strengthen our health and find greater happiness. Laughter has also been shown to increase memory, intelligence, and creativity.
Laughing is the Best Medicine
Laughter is powerful medicine, having both short, and long-term beneficial effects. It works quickly and reliably to improve the intake of oxygen, invigorating the heart, lungs and muscles, reducing stress hormones and expanding the number of our immune cells, increasing the endorphins that are released by the brain and bringing the mind and body into equilibrium.
Even the smallest giggle can increase blood flow (protecting the heart and cardiovascular system), release endorphins (the body’s natural feel-good chemicals), and relieve physical tension for up to 45 minutes.
People who experience depression, sometimes due to chronic illnesses, often find that humor can help lessen their depression and anxiety and make them feel happier.
A study in Norway found that people with a strong sense of humor outlived those who don’t laugh as much, particularly among cancer patients.
Below are the findings of researchers, Lee Berk, MD and Stanley Tan, MD at the Loma Linda University, California regarding the benefits of laughter:
- Lowers blood pressure
- Reduces stress hormone levels
- Works your abs
- Improves cardiac health
- Boosts T-cells
- Triggers the release of endorphins
- Produces a general sense of well-being
Laugh as a Sign of Good Will
Laughter is also a social process, by which we make friends and connect with other people. We often enjoy watching other people laughing, or at a dull statement that is obviously un-joke-like. The social aspect is an important part of humor.
According to a 2010 study in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, laughter and smiling are generally intended as a message of good will. “Because some forms of smiling are voluntary and easily faked, laughter, which requires a more synergetic contraction of the wider musculature, is believed to have evolved in humans to express a secure, safe message to others.”
Get a Sense of Humor
If you find it difficult to laugh, you may feel you don’t have much of a sense of humor. It’s more likely that you’re just out of practice. Even if you really do have a poor sense of humor — humor can be learned. In fact, developing a sense of humor may be easier than you think. Here are some ideas:
- Find items that make you chuckle and hang them up at home or in your office
- Keep funny movies, books, magazines or comedy videos on hand
- Research and find comedians that you like, seek out their specials, films and TV shows
- Look online at joke websites
- Go to a comedy club
- Find the humor in your own situations
- Spend time with friends who make you happy
- Collect joke books
- Start collecting jokes and share them with friends
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