10 Benefits of Laughter, and How to Use It

“Even if there is nothing to laugh about, laugh on credit.”

- Anonymous

SmilingThere may be more to the lyric “Put on a Happy Face” than just a catchy tune — putting on a happy face is absolutely good for you, and those around you.

For hundreds of years, it has been acknowledged that “Laughter is the best Medicine”. Breakthrough scientific research is shedding new light on the physiological beneficial effects of humor on health. Laughter can come in handy, whether it’s for dealing with an illness, the pressures of daily living, stress, coping at work even, laughter can dramatically change the quality and outlook of our lives.

And laughing makes us feel good for a reason. The physiological effects on our body do some pretty amazing stunts. Here are some examples:

1. Manage your hormones.

Laughter reduces the level of stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine, adrenaline, dopamine and growth hormone. It also increases the level of health-enhancing hormones like endorphins, and neurotransmitters. Laughter increases the number of antibody-producing cells and enhances the efficiency of T-cells. All this means a stronger immune system, as well as fewer physical effects of stress.

2. Nice internal workout.

A good belly laugh exercises the diaphragm, contracts the abs and even works out the shoulders, leaving muscles more relaxed afterward. It even provides a good workout for the heart. Laughing 100 times is the equivalent to 10 minutes on the rowing machine or 15 minutes on an exercise bike!

3. Physical release.

Have you ever felt like you had to laugh or you’d cry? Have you experienced the cleansed feeling after a good laugh? Laughter provides a physical and emotional release.

4. Positive frame of mind.

Laughter brings the focus away from anger, guilt, stress and negative emotions to them alongside other “mere distractions.” It will make you cheerful and put you in a positive frame of mind.

5. Change your perspective.

Researchers found 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 light-hearted perspective and help us view events as “challenges,” thereby making them less threatening and more positive.

6. Social benefits of laughter.

Laughter is contagious, so if you bring more laughter into your life, you can most likely help others around you laugh more. By elevating the mood of those around you, you can diminish their stress levels, and possibly improve the quality of social interaction you experience with them, reducing your stress level even more!

What’s even better is that the more you smile, the more others will too. Seeing a smile creates what is termed as a “halo effect,” helping us to remember other happy events more vividly, feel more optimistic, more positive and more motivated.

7. Fight illness better.

People who are optimistic (who are out there laughing!) have stronger immune systems and are actually able to fight off illness better than pessimists.

The research is very clear — this is not some social science generalization — there is a link between optimistic attitudes and good health. And it has been measured in a variety of ways. Overall, scientists have found that optimistic people are healthier. Their biological makeup is different and they have a more robust immune system.

8. Live longer.

According to some recent research published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, elderly optimistic people, those who expected good things to happen (rather than bad things), were less likely to die than pessimists.

In fact, among the 65-85 year-old study participants, those who were most optimistic were 55 percent less likely to die from all causes than the most pessimistic people. What’s more, after researchers adjusted the results for age, smoking status, alcohol consumption, physical activity and other measures of health, the optimists were 71 percent less likely to die than the pessimists!

9. It feels like eating 2000 chocolate bars.

That’s right — according to The British Dental Health Foundation, a smile gives the same level of stimulation as eating 2000 chocolate bars. The results were found after scientists measured brain and heart activity in volunteers as they were shown pictures of smiling people and given money and chocolate.

People have long been drawing attention to the fact that smiling increases happiness both in yourself and those around you, so it is good to receive the backing of this scientific research.

10. It costs absolutely nothing.

It doesn’t cost a cent and it is highly contagious.

A recent research showed that pre-school-aged children laugh up to 400 times a day, but by the time we reach adulthood, we laugh a mere 17 times per day on average! Here are some strategies to help you raise your laughter level:

HOW TO USE LAUGHTER

  • TV and movies: There’s no shortage of comedies out there, both at the theater and in the aisles of the video stores, as well as right on your TV. While wasting your time watching something slightly humorous may actually frustrate you, watching truly hilarious movies and shows is an easy way to get laughter into your life whenever you need it.
  • Laugh with friends: Going to a movie or comedy club with friends is a great way to get more laughter in your life. The contagious effects of laughter may mean you’ll laugh more than you otherwise would have during the show, plus you’ll have jokes to reference at later times. Having friends over for a party or game night is also a great setup for laughter and other good feelings.
  • Find humor in your life: Instead of complaining about life’s frustrations, try to laugh about them. If something is so frustrating or depressing it’s ridiculous, realize that you could “look back on it and laugh.” Think of how it will sound as a story you could tell to your friends, and then see if you can laugh about it now. With this attitude, you may also find yourself being more lighthearted and silly, giving yourself and those around you more to laugh about. Approach life in a more mirthful way and you’ll find you’re less stressed about negative events, and you’ll achieve the health benefits of laughter.
  • “Fake it, till you make it!”: Just as studies show the positive effects of smiling occur whether the smile is fake or real, faked laughter also provides the benefits mentioned above. So smile more, and fake laughter; you’ll still achieve positive effects, and the fake merriment may lead to real smiles and laughter.
  • WARNINGS

  • A small stomach ache can result.
  • Don’t force your laugh.
  • Laughing invokes feelings of happiness and joy. Instead of being all gloomy and frustrated because there is no perceived solution, laughing lifts us up out of our pool of problems and plops us on solid ground where we can gain some new insights. Don’t forget to LOL (laugh out loud) frequently!

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