You may be tired of hearing laughter described as the best medicine, but in reality, there’s science in this age-old adage. Laughter, while valued as a good thing, is unfortunately undervalued and underestimated as a natural way of self-care. Laughter is one of my favorite pain relief strategies because it’s fun, free, beneficial, and available anywhere and with anyone.
Research shows laughter helps relieve pain and fatigue, bring greater happiness and increase immunity. Incorporating more humor and fun into your life is important because it reduces the level of stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline), dopamine and growth hormone. Laughter increases the level of health-enhancing hormones like endorphins, and neurotransmitters. Laughter is a natural human coping mechanism.
Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand. — Mark Twain
Culturally there is a major misconception about laughter. It is often connected to happiness and to frivolity and silliness, and it is assumed that it has no connection to important, serious things of life. Yet laughter has been studied for years and the positive effects are substantial. For example back in 2001 Laughter: A Scientific Investigation by Robert Provine, Ph.D., University of Maryland-Baltimore County was published. This witty book weaves aspects of philosophy, evolution, neurology, and psychology together.
You can actually laugh in serious situations or even when you’re down in the dumps. Amazingly, you can laugh when you really need it most if you let the body do what comes naturally. Anyone who laughs more has to be in a better mood. Positive psychology names laughter and sense of humor as one of the 24 main strengths.
Studies show that our response to stressful events can be altered by whether we view something as a ‘threat’ or a ‘challenge’. Humor can give us a more lighthearted perspective and help us view events as ‘challenges’, thereby making them less threatening and more positive “Laughter through tears,” is sometimes called the perfect emotion.
A good laugh heals a lot of hurts. — Madeleine L’Engle
It is a great physical release which is really helpful in reducing stress. Have you ever felt like you “have to laugh or I’ll cry”? Have you experienced the cleansed feeling after a good laugh? Laughter provides a physical release. Cathartic laughter is a needed for its pain relieving ability.
It helps you breathe deeply exercising the diaphragm, working out your muscles leaving them more relaxed afterward. Laughter provides a good cardio workout.
Laughter changes your focus from anger, guilt, stress and negative emotions. It is one of the best distractions from pain. Try watching a comedy or reading a funny story.
Most people find that laughter is contagious, when you bring laughter into your life, you can help others laugh more, and realize these benefits as well. By elevating the mood of those around you, you can reduce their stress levels, improving the quality of social interaction you experience with them, reducing your stress level even more!
Aside from lifting one’s mood, laughter provides a long list of physical, mental, and social benefits that are good for your health in general.
Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine. — Lord Byron
Alleviates pain. When you laugh, you trigger your body to release endorphins, neuropeptides which act as your natural painkillers. Additionally, laughing helps control spasm-induced pain associated with many muscle disorders.
Boosts the immune system. When you are filled with negative thoughts, it can bring about more stress that may manifest into physical symptoms. On the other hand, laughter can activate your body’s T cells, a type of white blood cell that improves your body’s resistance to diseases.
Stimulates your organ muscles. A good and hearty laugh is effective in stimulating and exercising your major organ muscles. For one, laughter can keep your heart pumping, thereby increasing blood flow, our pulse and blood pressure go up, burning some calories that can protect you from other cardiovascular diseases. A good laugh can also help expand the lungs and improve oxygen inhalation.
Relaxes your muscles. Whenever stress gets the best of you, your muscles contract and tighten, which may impede with a healthy circulation. On the other hand, when you laugh, stress and tension are reduced, the whole body relaxes, and you feel an overall sense of well-being.
Increases breathing and releases energy. Everyone changes physiologically when we laugh. Laughter stretches muscles throughout our face and body, and we breathe faster, sending more oxygen to our tissues.
Lowers blood sugar levels. Research shows that what you experience after eating makes a difference to your blood sugar level, so watch a comedy.
Increases relaxation and sleep. In the famous, Anatomy of an Illness. Cousins, who had painful spine condition, found comedies, made him feel better. Ten minutes of laughter gave him two hours of pain-free sleep.
Promotes an active and healthy brain. Wit reveals cognitive abilities. “It’s a very powerful and reliable way to show creativity and intelligence,” Geoffrey Miller at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.
Improves mood. When you laugh, you feel good overall, which stays even after you’re done laughing. You just can’t feel sad, angry, or anxious when you laugh. It can help you fight depression, anxiety, and other chronic illnesses that may stem from these mood disorders.
Reduces stress levels. Laughter can reduce the levels of stress hormones produced by the body, four of the neuroendocrine hormones, epinephrine, cortisol, dopamine, and growth hormone. Stress relief can provide a long-term benefit for one’s immune system and can protect you from chronic illnesses.
Increases productivity. Laughter can help you achieve a different and positive perspective in life. It helps you become productive and cope up accordingly even during the most difficult situations.
Promotes self-satisfaction. Finding the time to laugh can help you see a different view of yourself. It gives you a whole new source of meaning and purpose in life that you won’t be able to find when you wallow in self-pity and sadness.
Dissolves conflict. Laughter can help ease the tension among families, friends, colleagues, and even partners. It helps save and strengthen relationships by working on issues with a calm and light attitude.
Promotes bonding. Perhaps the best gift you can ever give to yourself and to others is your contagious laughter. Laughter alone is good, but shared laughter is even better. You’ll find that it is easier to work with people and establish relationships when you share your smile with them.
Helps you become attractive. Nothing else is more attractive to the eyes of another person than someone who has a happy and pleasant attitude. You may think that serious, brooding and stern individuals are more worthy to be with. While some aspects of life should be taken seriously, being with people who feel the weight of the world on their shoulders all the time is never fun.
It may be hard to laugh when there’s nothing to laugh at but begin with a smile. When you find yourself in a difficult situation, try to look at the brighter side of things instead of focusing on the negative aspects. Learn to count your blessings, laugh at your mistakes, and spend time with happy people who can easily bring out your inner sense of humor.
Around the world laughter clubs are growing in popularity simply because it is fun to laugh with others and it is good for you. Laughter connects you with others. Look for a laughter club in your area.
For more information
Lots of research on laughter