Many of the old adages that we hear every day have a grain of truth in them – an apple a day keeps the doctor away for example.
Recent studies seem to indicate that ‘laughter is the best medicine’ is also based in fact. The research that has been carried out seems to show there is a number of far ranging health benefits from laughter.
These benefits include:
- Pain relief
- Overall increased happiness and enhanced mood
- Increased immunity
- Decreased stress levels
Having a good sense of humour is widely recognized as a positive character trait – think of all those lonely-hearts adverts citing GSOH as essential. Positive psychology aims to complement traditional psychology in treating mental illness by finding ways to make life more fulfilling and to enable patients to reach their fullest potential.
Stress – a 21st century disease
It is no surprise that many of us suffer from the effects of stress and experience stress related illnesses. People are increasingly under pressure from the demands of work and lifestyle, more and more people are seeking ways of managing their stress levels as we become more aware of how dangerous it is to health. Information about stress management techniques is widely available as more and more of us realize the need to calm down.
The benefits of laughter in stress management techniques are many; these benefits are the result of several factors –
- Hormone levels – when we experience stress our body releases the hormones cortisol, adrenaline, dopamine and the growth hormone. Tests have revealed that laughter reduces the levels of these hormones, whilst at the same time releasing endorphins and neurotransmitters.
- Immune system – laughter has been found to strengthen the immune system as it increases the number and effectiveness of the cells that produce antibodies.
- Release – laughter is a great way of providing us with both physical and emotional releases, many individuals report feeling refreshed after laughing.
- A work out on the inside – laughter causes muscles in the abdomen to contract, exercises the diaphragm and shoulders, it is beneficial for heart health and leaves us feeling relaxed.
- Distraction – a good laugh can make us forget about the things that are causing us stress, it can shift our focus from the things that make us feel angry, guilty or worried in a way that other distractions do not.
- Improved response – our response to stress varies depending on whether we see the situation as threatening one or a challenging one, using humour to view stressful events or situations as a ‘challenge’ rather than a ‘threat’ enables to take a more lighthearted approach when dealing with stress. The use of cognitive reframing aims to encourage and develop this stress management technique.
- Social benefits – laughter, along with smiling and kind actions connects us in a way that surliness does not. We probably all recognize the contagious effect of laughter – it is difficult not to smile back at someone, even a stranger, and it is difficult not to join in a bout of laughter, oftentimes joining in when we don’t know the reason for the laughter will provide us with a feeling of well being and improved mood. Laughter is a great way of improving our interaction with others as our humour and light-hearted approach to life will enhance the mood of those around us.
Stress Management? It’s a Laughing Matter
Laughter is a great, easy to use and free stress management technique, looking for ways to increase the amount of laughter in your life is something we would all benefit from.
- Entertainment – the field of entertainment is filled with opportunities to laugh. Visiting the theatre, the movies or just watching great comedy on TV are all easy ways of incorporating laughter into our lives.
- Friends – visiting a comedy club or the movie theatre with friends is bound to increase the amount of laughter you all experience, the contagious effect of laughter means that you will all encourage each other and, later, remind each other of the jokes and humour you have experienced together. Inviting friends over for a movie or games night will provide further opportunities for fun and laughter.
- Laugh at life – adopt a positive outlook on life, find humour in your situation – no matter how difficult – and you will soon begin to feel less frustrated and anxious. If a situation is one which you will ‘look back on and laugh’ – why wait, laugh at it now and feel better even in the midst of negativity and worry.
- Faking it is fine too – the studies conducted into the benefits of laughter show that the resulting positive effects are the same whether the laughter is real or faked. The human body cannot detect fake, forced laughter and real laughter resulting from a genuinely humorous situation. The physical effects and bodily reactions to fake laughter are the same as those to real laughter and, of course, fake laughter does often lead, naturally, into real laughter. Therefore, if you are feeling anxious, stressed and worried force yourself to smile and laugh – you will be amazed at how quickly your overall mood improves.
This is a guest post by Natalia. Natalia Z. is one of the specialists on Webctor.com – a new health center which is responsible for bringing free and accurate medical information to the Internet.