Let’s face it darlings, there’s not been much to celebrate or laugh about this year has there? COVID-19, lockdowns, social isolation and social and political unrest.
But in today’s world of high-tech gadgets and gizmos, medicinal remedies for anything, and science and medical breakthroughs, who would have thought the simple act of laughing could be better than any prescribed drug? But it is.
Laughter truly is the best medicine. There’s nothing better than laughing until your sides ache and tears run down your face, to lighten your spirits and make you feel better. And scientists tend to agree, as research has shown that there are many positive benefits to laughter but no negative effects have been found yet. In fact, just thinking of something funny can get the hormones flowing and the body responds positively.
Why we laugh
One of the first things we learn as babies are laughter.
It’s simply a biological response to a humorous stimulus. In other words, if someone tells a joke that you find funny, your body will respond by laughing.
There are two parts to laughter; a set of gestures and a sound, and as we laugh our brain automatically sends signals to simultaneously conduct these two ‘laughter parts’.
When we laugh the sound is generally ‘ha-ha-ha’ or yes, even ‘ho-ho-ho’. However, the sound structure of the laugh will always be the same sound, for example, ‘ha-ha-ha’, it is physically impossible to create a ‘ha-ho-ha-ho’ sound. Additionally, when we laugh long and hard enough, the tear ducts in our eyes are activated to help take oxygen into our bodies, the tears produced are simply a reflex from the tear glands.
According to science, laughter can be classified according to; intensity, overtness, the respiratory pattern involved, the emotion it is expressed with and the sound produced.
And whilst we find something funny and laugh, the laughter causes some amazing benefits.
Physical benefits of laughing
- Boosting immunity
Laughing triggers the release of the body’s immune cells and the specialized T-cells, which are infection-fighting antibodies that help you fight off sickness.
- Relaxes muscles
Laughing stops the body from releasing the stress hormone cortisol which aids muscle relaxation. A good laugh can relieve muscle tension, leaving muscles relaxed for quite a while after.
- Lowers blood pressure
Additionally, the decrease in cortisol helps stimulate circulation, which improves blood flow and, in turn, helps lower your blood pressure. And a lower blood pressure reduces your risk of stroke or heart attack.
- Decreases pain
Laughing releases endorphins, the happy hormone, which is also the body’s natural pain reliever. In fact, scientists have found that laughter not only helped in enduring pain but also in the healing process. The relaxing effect helped both those having painful procedures and those who were suffering anxiety due to pain expectation.
- Improves cardiac health
Laughter improves the intake of oxygen which stimulates body organs including the heart. This stimulation gives the heart a good workout as it gets the heart pumping and can burn as many calories per hour as walking at a slow to moderate pace for an hour.
- Works your abs
Laugh your way to a six-pack! As well as a cardio workout, laughter exercises both the diaphragm and abs. When you laugh, the expansion and contraction of your stomach work your abs in the same way intentional ab exercises do.
Social benefits of laughing
- Strengthens relationships
Laughter is an emotion, and sharing laughter with each other creates and builds strong, long-lasting emotional bonds
- Attracts us to others
Laughter plays a main role when it comes to attracting others to us, both in a romantic and plutonic way, simply because is contagious.
- Enhances teamwork
There are many ways that laughter helps improve working relationships and team cohesion, but one of the main reasons is that laughing with others makes us feel more positive and optimistic. By being able to laugh with colleagues, means you can look forward to the working day as you will enjoy work and feel like you belong.
- Helps diffuse conflict
Have you ever tried to stay angry at someone who’s laughing? It’s difficult, isn’t it? In many situations, a well-time joke can work wonders to diffuse the situation and ease tension so you resolve any conflict calmly and rationally.
Mental health benefits of laughter
Laughter not only has physical and social benefits but also causes healthy emotional changes in the body and makes you feel great. The positivity generated stays with you long after the laughter has subsided, and nothing else works as fast as a good laugh to bring your mind and body back into alignment. There are many other ways laughter can benefit your mental health:
- Emotional release
Not only does laughter reduce stress which immediately reduces the anxiety or stress you’re feeling by pushing those thoughts out of your mind, but in some cases can be a cathartic process. Laughter therapy is based on the belief that emotions are stored in the body, not in the mind and through the process of laughter built-up emotional pain can be released.
- Shifts perspective
Laughter helps shift your perspective on difficult situations. By relaxing those negative emotions we can see the situation more realistically as a challenge, not as a threat.
- Promotes creativity
We are at our most creative when we are in a state of relaxation and laughter is a great proponent of relaxation. When we are relaxed our minds are more focused and alert and feel safer to let ideas and imagination flow freely.
Laughter has so much power to heal, we should all laugh more often. It’s fun, easy, and best of all it’s free to use.
So what are you waiting for? Turn the corners of your mouth up and laugh.
Until next time darlings.