Laugh ‘Til It Hurts: Laughter Is Truly the Best Medicine
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Many of us have heard the quote “laughter is the best medicine”. You’ve likely said it yourself or have had it said to you. But is it true that laughter is the best medicine? Scientific evidence to support the theory is incomplete if not inconclusive. But let’s consider a few things.
When you were a child, you probably laughed a lot – at least a lot more often than you do now. As a kid, you didn’t have to worry about paying bills, impressing a boss or how you would take care of your family. And you laughed a whole lot more.
As an adult though, you’ve likely become more serious. And with good reason.
Life becomes more complicated and challenging as we move into and through adulthood. But wouldn’t it be nice to feel that freedom again that we had as children… where laughter came so effortlessly?
Just because you now have adult responsibilities doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy opportunities to add a little laughter. If memory serves me right, as a child, laughing always felt pretty good. And as a bonus, your health may benefit from it. In fact, laughter therapy is very real.
We all have stress in our lives, and when we experience continual stress, it breaks us down both physically and mentally. But laughing has a positive effect. It makes you feel better emotionally, and in terms of physical effects, it can certainly help there too.
What laughter can do for you
According to the experts, laughter is good for you. It helps you develop and strengthen social bonds with other people. It triggers healthy emotional and physical changes in your body. Besides just making you feel good, it strengthens your immunity, reduces pain, and protects you from the damages that stress can do. (Source) (Source)
How laughter can help you live a healthier life
Some days, it can be difficult just to crack a smile, but if you find humor in at least one thing every day, you’ll be boosting your health in a big way. Want to know how laughter can help you? Here are some of the many things more laughter can do for your life. (Source)
1. It relaxes the body
Those of us that have been through deep depression know how good it feels to get a big, good laugh in. It relaxes your whole body from head to toe, relieving the physical tension and stress that was bogging you down. Muscles can even stay relaxed for nearly an hour after enjoying a robust laugh or two.
2. It protects you from illness
The more you laugh, the stronger your immune system becomes. Every time you laugh, stress hormones in the body decrease while hormones responsible for creating immune cells and antibodies that fight infection increase. This really makes laughter the best medicine.
3. It makes you feel good
When you laugh, endorphins are released into your body. (Source) Those are the chemicals that make your body feel good and give you an overall sense of contentment. They can even relieve pain temporarily.
4. Laughter improves short term memory
5. It guards your heart
The more you laugh, the stronger your heart will be. Laughing helps your blood vessels function properly and increases your blood flow to protect you from heart attacks and cardiovascular problems like heart disease. (Source)
6. It burns calories
Keep on laughing because it burns calories. However, even if you laugh for 15 minutes per day, you’ll only burn around 40 calories. That’s not enough to cancel your gym membership, but every little bit adds up. Laugh for an hour with friends over a latte and you may just laugh those calories off just like that!
7. It can be a relief from anger
Anger is such a negative emotion, yet a necessary one. We have to feel it, process it and then move on. But carrying it around with us only destroys us from the inside out. Laughing can lighten the load of anger.
Think about your kids for example. Maybe they’ve colored on the wall which certainly does not make you happy, but if you look for the humor in the situation (like the fact that they’ve drawn a hilarious version of your spouse) it may help to break your angry mood (and save the children from a decidedly unpleasant fate).
Laughter helps remind us not to stress out over the small potatoes in life.
8. It keeps you mentally healthy
As mentioned, laughter releases those feel-good endorphins which bring about positivity for the mind. But once you finally stop laughing, the benefits of a good laugh stay with you.
Having a good sense of humor can be your lifeline when adulting gets dark, dreary and lonely. Even when someone we love passes on or a relationship doesn’t work out, having humor in our hearts will help us get through the difficulties of these kinds of challenges.
9. It brings you hope
When he left, you probably thought you’d never be happy again. Even if he didn’t leave on bad terms, it still rips your heart at the seams, leaving you drowning in pain and sorrow.
Laughter helps you shake free from those negative feelings. It is important to release them, but adding laughter in with them helps you heal.
Be around your most humorous friends or watch a movie that you know you can’t keep from laughing at. Just these simple things will help you move forward with joy in your life.
Laughter is the best medicine for negative emotions because it is impossible to be angry, sad or anxious while you’re laughing hysterically.
10. It allows you to change perspective
Let’s go back to the example about the kids drawing on the wall. As a parent, you may feel angry they’ve damaged the home that you’ve worked so hard to pay for.
But when you let the kid inside you out to laugh at the drawing instead of becoming angry, it allows you to change your perspective. It’s here in this moment of laughter that you can take a step back and see that while your kids should be held accountable for the damage, it’s something that can be fixed.
It allows you to take a step back and become immersed in the sweet harmony that is found in their peels of laughter. Laughing puts a psychological distance between you and your negative emotions from anger to sorrow to feeling overwhelmed. It can also diffuse conflict and make it easier for you to assert authority that your children will obey without scaring them.
11. It brings you closer together with others
From your own children to your spouse, and from your friends to your coworkers, laughter strengthens your bond.
It’s contagious too, which is why you usually find yourself laughing in the company of others instead of when you’re alone, unless you’re watching something funny.
And speaking of watching things, when you watch a sitcom, that laugh track in the background will convince you to laugh even if you didn’t find a particular scene to be funny enough to guffaw at.
How to get more laughter out of life
Now that you know laughter is the best medicine, maybe you’ll seek out more of those opportunities to make you laugh. That can be extremely difficult though if you are battling depression or are going through an especially difficult time.
But seeking out laughter every day can help you to put a more positive spin on things, and to keep yourself going. In time, you will find you feel much better, and at the very least, you’ll feel better for a few minutes each day if you make it a point to seek out laughter.
Laughter is something that is part of us as human beings. Like a smile, you can travel the world over and it is the same in every culture. Here are some ways to get a laugh in.
Start with a smile
Smiling is as contagious as laughter, and a smile is how laughter usually begins. Practice smiling, even at strangers that you meet, and chances are you’ll find yourself laughing before long.
Distance yourself from negativity
When faced with seasons of difficulty or negativity in your life, try to remember all the good and not dwell on the bad.
So he left you (or you had to leave him), you lost your job, or an aging relative has passed. But you are alive, blessed to have food on your table, clothes on your back, and you have friends and family that love you.
Focus on those things that are good. In our darkest times, it might be a longer journey to laughter, but finding those moments when you can laugh and share with others helps to draw you out of the deadening darkness.
Spend time with people that make life fun
In tough times especially, stick around the fun and playful people you know – the people that laugh at everything from themselves to life’s daily foibles.
Although they surely have down days too, they’re the ones who find a way to laugh and get through it. Go shopping, have lunch, see a movie, take a walk or just enjoy a conversation with a fun friend, and the laughter you share will benefit you both.
Look for humor
Sometimes, you’ve got to deliberately look for humor. Even when life seems to be going in the opposite way you’d imagined, sometimes embracing the insanity is the way to live it up and laugh it up.
Ask your kids about something funny that happened at school. Or when you ask them for the one thousandth time to clean their rooms and they roll their eyes, go full on Cookie Monster. They’ll laugh and you will too. And you know what? They’ll clean their rooms on top of it.
Bust out the old board games for an old-fashioned game night with friends. Karaoke anyone? Get out there and have fun! Finding your inner goofball will help you embrace laughter as the best medicine.
Break down the walls of stress around you
Stress can trap you in your own personal prison. It’s so important to release it any way you can. If you can’t laugh, go for a walk or run. Hit the gym. Get moving and shake it out because stress leads to major health problems, many of which can cause us to drop dead. In the end, what do we have to show for any of this? We can’t take all these material things with us. All we can do is make the most beautiful and wonderful memories possible. We can’t stop bad things from happening to us, but we can find ways to cope with the anguish we feel.
When you find yourself overrun with stress, stop and take a few moments to let that stress go. Remind yourself to lighten up.
Life is just too short to spend it worried or mad or gloomy all the time. Make it a point to seek out the joys of life. Find humor in your challenges.
Uncover the small joys hidden in your daily routines. Create opportunities to share hopeful moments with others, or share the gift of laughter with someone who may need it even more than you.
Is laughter the best medicine? I sure think it is. How about you? When is the last time you had a good laugh?
Kimberly Clay is the founder and creative force behind What She Say. She’s a business professional, writer and editor who’s been creating and managing digital content for nearly twenty years. Her work is now focused in the areas of self-improvement and personal development, and she is passionate about helping other individuals, especially women, to find a path for living their best life.