“When it comes to relieving stress, more giggles and guffaws are just what the doctor ordered,” according to researchers at the Mayo Clinic. “Whether you’re guffawing at a sitcom on TV or quietly giggling at a newspaper cartoon, laughing does you good. Laughter is a great form of stress relief, and that’s no joke.”
Good news: Their research tells us that while a good sense of humor can’t cure all ailments, there is a plethora of positive things laughter can do.
For starters, a good laugh:
- Enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.
- Activates and relieves your stress response. A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response, and can increase then decrease your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.
- Soothes tension. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.
Better news: Laughter isn’t just a quick pick-me-up.
In the long-term, laughter may:
- Improve your immune system. Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. By contrast, positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.
- Relieve pain. A good laugh causes the body to produce natural painkillers.
- Increase personal satisfaction. Laughter can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations. It also helps you connect with other people.
- Improve your mood. Many people experience depression, sometimes due to chronic illnesses. Laughter can help lessen your depression and anxiety and may make you feel happier.
The best news: Humor can be learned!
If you need a little humor improver, try these easy ways to incorporate more laughter into your life:
- Put humor on your horizon. Find a few simple items, such as photos, greeting cards or comic strips, that make you chuckle. Then hang them up at home or in your office. Keep funny movies, books, magazines or comedy videos on hand for when you need an added humor boost. Look online at joke websites. Go to a comedy club.
- Laugh and the world laughs with you. Find a way to laugh about your own situations and watch your stress begin to fade away. Even if it feels forced at first, practice laughing. It does your body good.
- Try laughter yoga. It’s often practiced in a group, and while the laughs are forced at first, it soon turns into spontaneous laughter that can heal you — and bond you with others in the group. Check out our interview with Slash Coleman, one of America’s top laughter yoga teachers.
- Share a laugh. Make it a habit to spend time with friends who make you laugh. And then return the favor by sharing funny stories or jokes with those around you.
- Knock, knock. Browse through your local bookstore or library’s selection of joke books and add a few jokes to your list that you can share with friends.
- Know what isn’t funny. Don’t laugh at the expense of others. Some forms of humor aren’t appropriate. Use your best judgment to discern a good joke from a bad or hurtful one.
- Give it a try. Turn the corners of your mouth up into a smile and then give a laugh, even if it feels a little forced. Once you’ve had your chuckle, take stock of how you’re feeling. Are your muscles a little less tense? Do you feel more relaxed or buoyant? That’s the natural wonder of laughing at work.
Start laughing right now: Here’s how.
- Smile. Smiling is the beginning of laughter, and like laughter, it’s contagious. When you look at someone or see something even mildly pleasing, practice smiling. Instead of looking down at your phone, look up and smile at people you pass in the street, the person serving you a morning coffee, or the co-workers you share an elevator with. Notice the effect on others.
- Count your blessings. Literally make a list. The simple act of considering the positive aspects of your life will distance you from negative thoughts that block humor and laughter. When you’re in a state of sadness, you have further to travel to reach humor and laughter.
- When you hear laughter, move toward it. Sometimes humor and laughter are private, a shared joke among a small group, but usually not. More often, people are very happy to share something funny because it gives them an opportunity to laugh again and feed off the humor you find in it. When you hear laughter, seek it out and ask, “What’s funny?”
- Spend time with fun, playful people. These are people who laugh easily–both at themselves and at life’s absurdities–and who routinely find the humor in everyday events. Their playful point of view and laughter are contagious. Even if you don’t consider yourself a lighthearted, humorous person, you can still seek out people who like to laugh and make others laugh. Every comedian appreciates an audience.
For more ideas and tips on how to incorporate more laughter into your life visit: The Mayo Clinic
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- Seaward BL. Comic relief: The healing power of humor. In: Essentials of Managing Stress. 4th ed. Burlington, Mass.: Jones & Bartlett Learning; 2017.
- Create joy and satisfaction. Mental Health America. March 7, 2019.