Can laughter really benefit your health?
There is an old adage about laughter being the best medicine, and it is quite true: there are many benefits of laughing, particularly in relation to our health.
Firstly, it is impossible to feel stressed when you laugh.
When we laugh our physiology literally changes. Our blood pressure goes down and our heart health improves. The body releases its natural “happy hormones” (endorphins), which lift our mood, and reduces its production of the stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol.
One of the other benefits of laughing is that we tend to breathe more deeply, which is good for the lungs and the supply of oxygen to our cells. Our blood vessels relax, improving blood circulation.
In addition to this, laughter has a positive effect on the immune system and the brain.
There are also social benefits of laughing. It is hard to be angry with someone when you are laughing. A shared laugh strengthens relationships and enhances teamwork. This is why many companies employ comedians for staff development days.
In fact laughter’s effect on our wellbeing is similar to that of exercise.
What happened to laughter?
Between political correctness and general busyness people tend to laugh less these days.
Somewhere in the ‘growing up’ years we seem to lose our capacity to laugh spontaneously. It is estimated that children laugh over 300 times a day compared to around 20 for adults. Children see the funny side of just about anything and laugh at things adults regard as “silly”. Maybe it is the children who have got it right and it is the adults who are being silly by not laughing more.
The late Leslie Nielsen had the ability to make many people laugh. His roles in Flying High and The Naked Gun movies (among other roles) made millions of people laugh.
To be honest, watching the academy awards scene in Naked Gun 33 1/3 made me laugh so much I cried. Even seeing it again years later I was in tears. The humor is classic and to a degree dateless as my children who were born some years after the film was made also cracked up, despite it being “an old film, Dad”.
So what else can you do to laugh more?
Some of the ways we can reap the benefits of laughing include reading the comics in the paper, watching comedies instead of serious films, getting a ‘joke of the day’ calendar, and watching funny videos on the internet.
Dare I say, even laugh at the joke emails that do the rounds or silly stuff on Facebook.
Some people really struggle to laugh and there are now classes run on how to laugh. There is even a form of laughter yoga. Strange as it sounds, some of us need to re-learn how to laugh and these sorts of classes can be very beneficial.
The first step, however, is a change in attitude. Everything has a funny side if you look for it. Next time, rather than get frustrated at events in life, laugh at them. We cannot influence all the events in life but we can control how we respond to them.
Choosing to look for the funny side and to be less serious will benefit your health and the more of us who do this, the more society will benefit as well.