Six reasons why you should laugh more
When was the last time you laughed so hard that the next day it felt like you’d done some sit-ups? In Psychology Today’s article ‘Happily Ever Laughter’, a study shows that children at kindergarten age laugh 300 times a day compared to adults who only laugh 17 times a day.
There is a lot of research these days to show that laughter really is the best cure for many different types of ailments, including depression. Alike exercise, gratitude, healthy eating, a good night’s sleep and meditation, laughing has an important purpose in our lives to keep our bodies balanced and running smoothly.
Smiling and laughing makes our brain release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that produces feelings of happiness and compassion. But it also makes others feel good; it’s contagious. The brain is so wired to respond positively to smiles and laughter that the brain can’t help it, even when we smile at ourselves in the mirror or mimic laughing, to respond in a positive manner.
Here are six reasons that smiling and laughter can affect us in a positive way:
1. Laughing can help you live longer
Interestingly, the Archives of General Psychiatry published a study where, over 65s who had an optimistic outlook on life, were more likely to live longer than their pessimistic peers who expected the worst to happen. Those who were expecting bad things to happen were more likely to die (of any cause) than their positive thinking counterparts.
So make an effort and smile! It’s harder to get sucked down by the daily bad news when we have a laugh.
2. Laughter boosts your immune system
The neuropharmacologist Candace Pert conducted a study that showed a close association of our immune system to our emotional worlds. The research found that, when we harbour negative thoughts, they manifest themselves into chemical reactions that subject our body to more stress and, thus, reduce our immunity.
Berk et al (12,13) reported that, when 52 healthy men watched a funny video for 30 minutes, they had significantly higher activity of natural killer (NK) cells, that help to contain viral infection, compared with men who watched an emotionally neutral documentary. Really fabulous!
3. Laughing can provide pain relief
15 minutes of good laughing alleviates pain by 10%, LiveScience.com claims. Not only does it distract you from your discomforts, it also releases endorphins into your brain causing a natural high that soothes and alleviates the pain. So, put on a comedy show when your muscles are cramping or you are on your monthly cycle and feel the natural painkillers work.
4. Laughter reduces depression
Not only does a happy mood boost the immune system, but it also enables us to be less stressed and tense, as well as lessening anxiety levels and irritation. According to a study conducted by psychologists Herbert Lefcourt, of the University of Waterloo, and Rod Martin, Ph.D., at the University of Western Ontario, those who were stressed with a good sense of humour became less depressed and anxious than those with a less well-developed sense of humour.
When we relax and laugh our mind relaxes too. Researchers at West Chester University in Pennsylvania also found that students who used humour as a coping mechanism were more likely to be in a positive mood stopping them from sliding into the blues.
5. Laughing can improve your relationships
Having a laugh with friends and family is a way to bond and get through the tough times. As laughing is contagious, you will help others to relax and lift their mood too. You will be remembered as a positive influence. Research interestingly suggests that women laugh more than men.
6. Laughter lowers blood pressure and boosts oxygen
The Laughter Foundation states that laughter has the ability to reduce the production of stress hormones. This not only happens when we laugh but continues for a time after. Laughter also works our muscles, which heightens our blood pressure and dilates blood vessels to enable more oxygen to circulate through our body, due to the deeper breathing that happens when we laugh.
Laughing for 15-20 minutes a day is good for heart health the Laughter Foundation says. The 'heartier’ the laugh, the better.
So, get laughing and feel the wonderful benefits. Try out some of these tips to get you giggling:
- Watch a funny DVD or show.
- Go to a comedy club.
- Share a joke.
- Smile and see who responds.
- Visit the humour section at your local book store.
- Surround yourself with people who share your humour.
- Go to laughter classes.
- Connect through meetup.com with like-minded people.
- Play a game.
- Visit magic shops or toy shops.
- Play and spend time with dogs.
- And just smile at yourself in the mirror when you pass.
Have a good laugh!
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