We know very little about the exact brain mechanisms of laughter. Still, we have held on that laughter is the best medicine for ages. We even have World Laughter Day coming up on 1st May. What’s more, a significant amount of research has been poured into the matter, showing that laughing goes a long way in conveying a slew of benefits to the body and mind.
Well, there are many reasons to have a good deep belly laugh, from establishing or restoring a positive emotional state to weight management and improved health. Let’s look at ten of them.
Relaxes Your Whole Body
Work, school, family and other daily activities can stress your body and tense up your muscles, causing you to feel like you are stuck in a rut. However, with a hearty laugh, you can relieve your body from physical tension and get your muscles to relax for up to 45 minutes. It also reduces pain and helps you tolerate discomfort better.
Helps with Weight Management
Although it’s by no means a substitute for going to the gym or maintaining a healthy diet, laughing for at least 10 minutes a day can help you burn up to 40 calories. Do this persistently, and you could lose three to four pounds within a year.
If not for the calories, consider this: laughing also works your abs. You’ve probably laughed heartily before and felt your stomach muscles expand and contract just like they do as a result of intentional exercise. Spike your abs routine with laughter and enjoy every step of the way towards a toned tummy.
Improves Your Cardiac Health
One of the most significant effects of laughter on health is cardiovascular exercise. Your blood vessels expand when you laugh, so you could say laughter increases blood flow. The optimal flow of oxygen-rich blood helps lower your risk of a heart attack in addition to other cardiovascular problems.
Besides, when your vessels expand during laughter, your blood pressure drops significantly. Even if you always have an average blood pressure level, lowering it a little more further reduces your risk of stroke and heart attack.
Supports Immune Function
Negative thoughts and stress cause chemical reactions that strain your whole body and decrease immunity. The good news is that laughing helps rack up your immune function, complimenting your healthy diet and those immunity supplements you might be taking.
What’s more, your body has specialised immune cells called T-cells just waiting to be activated. Laughter boosts these cells and allows you to begin fighting off illnesses immediately. Next time you feel like you are coming down with something, laugh it out or giggle on your way to the hospital. Who knows? You might not have to get there.
Increases Endorphins and Lowers Stress
We’ve hinted in the previous points that one of the effects of laughter on the brain is lower stress levels, but let’s expound on that a little more. The increase in oxygen intake and better circulation resulting from laughter helps decrease cortisol, the primary stress hormone in the body.
This process also lowers other hormones such as epinephrine (adrenaline) and dopamine. In the meantime, laughter increases the levels of endorphins, your body’s natural pain reliever. This feel-good hormone also increases happiness levels.
Improves Your Mood
Nothing blurs out anger and conflict as effectively as a shared laugh. It gives you a general sense of well-being and diffuses the negative thoughts you might be holding on to. It may also help you handle confrontations without feeling bitter or resentful.
Brings You Closer to Others
Much like a smile or an act of kindness, laughter is contagious and connects us with others. Comedy TV sitcoms understand this effect, which is why they use infectious laugh tracks. It’s also interesting that the more you laugh in your life, the happier you make yourself and those around you.
It doesn’t have to come entirely from hearing jokes because the social aspect of laughter can manifest through simply spending time with family and friends.
Provides a Distraction
Maybe it won’t all go away, but you can at least get a temporary distraction from stress, anger, guilt, and other negative emotions as an effect of laughter on mental health. It allows you to stop thinking about whatever is eating you up and provides your brain with a much-needed break from worrying thoughts that only cause more stress.
Shifts Your Perspective
Scientific evidence shows that we react to situations differently depending on whether we see them as a threat or a challenge. You can give yourself a more objective perspective and view events as challenges rather than threats through humour.
These psychological effects of laughter also help you feel less overwhelmed.
How to Laugh More Often
Now that you know you are better off laughing your way out of difficult situations, how do you add laughter to your life? It may be easier than you think. Here’s how:
- Watch funny stuff: Don’t be so serious all the time. Consider enjoying something you find humorous in your way, whether it is a comedy special, silly cat meme, or “try not to laugh” video.
- Introduce humour to your conversations: you must have a few things you’ve found funny before. Well, don’t keep them all to yourself. You will end up laughing, too. Also, try asking people about the most amusing things they’ve experienced.
- Keep the company of fun people: the contagious effect laughter has on individuals means you will laugh more by hanging out with fun-loving, playful people. Surround yourself with friends who find humour in daily events and laugh easily, whether at themselves or the world.
- Focus on the brighter side of things: try creating the habit of joking about minor mistakes and stressful situations rather than dwelling on them. What’s more, count your blessings instead of ruminating over the unfavourable circumstances.
- Laughter Yoga: this modern exercise involves laughing out loud voluntarily for a prolonged period, often in playful groups. Laughter therapy research shows that doing it voluntarily has the same positive effects of laughter on emotional and physical health as the spontaneous type.
- Seek help: consider seeing a specialist who can help you deal with stress if you find that it is not going away. Stress itself may be quite the impediment to your laughter.
Let Your Inner Child Out with Some Laughter
Now you have at least ten reasons to let your inner child out and go ha-ha all the time. Be sure to consume funny media content, bring humour to your conversations, focus on the brighter side of life, and surround yourself with fun-loving people. Remember, even if you can’t laugh honestly, simulated laughter could prove just as instrumental.