When was the last time that you laughed? Was it today? Last week? Can you even remember? Life can get heavy; believe me, I hear you! With all the seriousness that life can throw at us, it’s important that we try and balance it with levity. That levity is laughter, which brightens your mood, enhances your immune system, and helps you combat stress among many other things. Think about how often a child laughs, I get my little girl to laugh so much which in turn makes me laugh!! It’s contagious!! It makes me happy to make her laugh and I find this helps bring lightness to my day. By seeking out more opportunities for laughter, you can improve so many aspects of your life emotionally, socially, and physically.
Science backs it up!
According to the Blue Zones, laughter activates many regions of the brain (motor cortex, frontal lobe, and limbic system) which strengthens neural connections and helps your brain coordinate its activity. This can be a powerful tool socially, cognitively, and mentally! Socially, laughter brings people together and forms a common bond. Cognitively, laughter enhances your ability to see the brighter, lighter side of things. Mentally, humor and laughter help combat stressful situations and help build resiliency and creative thinking. When you laugh, you can take the situation at hand and make it less powerful thus enhancing your ability to feel empowered to problem solve.
In the medical field, laughter is also being “prescribed” to help with healing! It is a prescription with no side effects, and although it is continued to be studied on its benefits and usage, why not use it if there are no side effects other than laughter! Some studies, showcase that 50% of cancer patients use laughter and humor as part of their treatment program. This quote is worth repeating from an actual patient: “The other reactions; anger, depression, suppression, denial, took a little piece of me with them. Each made me feel just a little less human. Yet laughter made me more open to ideas, more inviting to others and even a little stronger inside. It proved to me that, even as my body was devastated and my spirit challenged, I was still a vital human.” THIS, I can advocate for! Personally, when I include laughter and humor in my day, I feel human, I feel lighter, I feel stronger.
Benefits of laughter and humor
If you aren’t convinced that humor can make you healthier and just feel better, read on for the benefits!
How it works
Relaxes the body
It relieves physical tension and stress relaxing your muscles for up to 45 minutes!
Enhances the immune system
It decreases stress hormones like cortisol and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies which can improve our resistance to disease.
Promotes an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
Protects the heart
It improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow which can help protect you against cardiovascular problems such as heart disease.
Can help you gain a broader perspective, look on the lighter side, and enable you to move on without holding onto bitterness or resentment.
Can burn calories
Okay don’t skip the workouts, but you can burn anywhere from 10-40 calories during 15 minutes of laughing!
How it works
Stops distressing emotions
It’s hard to feel anxious, sad or angry when you’re laughing!
Helps you relax and recharge
Reduces stress and increases energy so you can focus and accomplish more without allowing your mind to wander or ruminate.
It allows you to see situations in a more realistic way which creates phycological distance helping you not feel overwhelmed and helpless while dealing with challenging situations.
How it works
Brings you closer to others
This can help all aspects of mental and emotional help. There is power in numbers!
Humor gets you out of your head and allows your mind to focus on other, better things and not hold back in fear!
Helps you forgo resentment, judgment, criticism, and doubt.
Increases the ability to express feelings
When your head is clear those deeply felt, emotions are allowed to rise to the surface and be expressed.
How to cultivate more humor into your day!
We know the benefits, there’s science behind it, so how do we get more of this good stuff in our life!!
Make it a part of your life
Find things and people that make you laugh and have them present in your life! Pictures, videos, movies, comics anything! Hang up pictures that make you smile and laugh, watch comedy shows or funny movies, surround yourself with happy, funny people – the world is your oyster, so long as it brings you humor!
Something I do when I’m feeling down ... I watch videos of my daughter – she makes me laugh and her giggles are contagious!!
Find the lighter side
Things happen in life that create judgment heaviness. Whatever it is that’s bogging you down, or even if you just break a dish, try to find the lighter side of it as best you can so you can move forward and enjoy the brighter sides of life! Maybe even try to laugh about it if you can. It may seem hard at first, but if you add humor sometimes it helps bring levity to the situation. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer life got heavy, but I have found that if I bring humor into my life all the scary stuff sort of takes a back seat. I crack a few bald jokes here and there too, can’t have a bad hair day!! (it’s okay to laugh, really!).
It is a known fact that social media can lead to depression and anxiety, but, if you are on social media, be mindful of who you’re following. Follow people that inspire you, that make you laugh, or bring you joy. By following and liking more pages that make you smile and laugh, humor will show up more often in your feeds. Unfollow the pages that don't bring you joy or fulfillment!
Yep, that’s it! Look at yourself in the mirror and smile (hello self-love!!). Like laughter, smiling is also contagious! It's easy to spend so much time looking down at our phones or thinking too far ahead while we navigate life, instead, look up and smile at people or things, take notice of your daily life and the actions you take, and try to add more smiles. Notice the effects on you and others.
Author: Melissa Dupuis, MPH, CHES