Laughter is a powerful way to pump the body full of ‘feel-good’ feelings. It has been scientifically proven that a good belly laugh releases endorphins that help relieve stress. Laughter also activates the release of serotonin which helps regulate our mood and acts as a natural antidepressant. As such, laughter promotes a sense of well-being that stays with us for some time after the fun event.
Laughter As Therapy
The belief that laughter is the best medicine is purported to have come about in the 1300s when a professor of surgery, Henri de Mondeville, advised his patients to blend post-operative therapy with humour. However, it would seem that laughter as the best medicine goes back much further than that as Proverbs 17:22 tells us, ‘A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.’
Dr. Norman Cousins, a journalist, author, professor and world peace activist with a particular interest in the connection between attitude and health, believed that humour and positive thinking helps the body fight disease. Cousins developed his own therapy treatment based on mood elevation through laughter, where his research findings concluded that ten minutes of laughter resulted in two hours of pain-free sleep.
After a good laugh, we’re more likely to be able to reflect on our issue, make more sense of it and then move on. According to mental health expert Dr. Olivia Reemes, ‘When you crack a joke, instead of staying serious, you’re helping to distance yourself from the problem at hand. You’re taking a step back and putting a gap between you and your struggles, and this can make you see things more clearly. This is important because left unattended chronic stress can suppress the immune system, increasing your risk of early death.’
Research carried out by the Association For Applied And Therapeutic Humor (AATH), who is an organisation dedicated to researching the study and application of humour to effect positive change, shows that humour provides innumerable benefits to our overall health and well-being and helps:
- Reduce stress
- Decrease depressive symptoms
- Increase Pain Tolerance
- Boost healthy energy levels
- Build a stronger immune system
- Develop greater resilience
- Create a greater sense of well-being
- Foster a happier approach to life and living
A Happier Workforce
The AATH also advocate humour as being an excellent tool to use in the workplace. ‘The strategic use of humour sparks connection, increases influence, improves communication and can be used as a competitive advantage in any industry.’ Their research shows:
- We experience a 39 percent decrease in stress by simply anticipating humour
- We are twice as productive after taking a humour break
- Our memory recall increases by as much as 23 percent after watching a funny video
Healthy, Happy Connections
Laughter is genuinely contagious; as the brain responds to the sound of laughter, it preps the muscles in the face to join in on the fun, that’s when our smile bursts forth, and all this amazingness takes place in our body. This is what we then project into the world around us – laughter. According to Sophie Scott, a neuroscientist at the University College of London, ‘It seems that it’s absolutely true that ‘laugh and the whole world laughs with you.’
Laughter helps foster closeness to others. It lightens the moment helping us feel good in ourselves and feel good in the company we’re with; thus, it helps us create close bonds of friendship.
Ways To Bring More Laughter Into Your Life
What you laugh at will very much depend on your sense of humour. But there are endless ways to bring more opportunities to laugh into your day. Here are a few:
- Spend time playing with children. Or watch them lick a chocolate cake, as Alfie did in this hilarious clip of In The Life of A Five-Year-Old. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRx3eOWC2l4&ab_channel=Channel4
- Watch a video of your favourite stand-up comedian. Or better still, become your own stand-up comedian. Stand Up For Mental Health is a Canadian based programme that teaches people how to use comedy as a form of therapy to help them cope with their mental health issues and give them the confidence to make the public more aware of mental health in general.
- Watch a funny animal clip on YouTube and see if you can guess the culprit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CaRtHs4_3fE&ab_channel=BoomerJen
- Visit a children’s playground and swing on the swings or have a go on the slide. This is a sure way to get you giggling with your friends.
- Share a joke with friends or family.
- If you’re an animal lover, a sure way to melt your heart and put a smile on your face is to watch puppies or kittens play. They’re so much fun.
- Share funny memories with friends.
- Watch a funny movie. The old ones are the best. Here are the top 100 comedy movies of all time, voted by Time Out https://www.timeout.com/london/film/100-best-comedy-movies
- Join a laughter yoga group. Laughter yoga is a form of therapy based on the belief that voluntary laughter provides similar physiological and psychological benefits as spontaneous laughter. You’ve got nothing to lose, and at least you’ll be guaranteed a laugh.
- Having happy thoughts and a smile on your face means you’re ready to burst into laughter at a second’s notice.
- Read a funny poem, such as Smile by Spike Milligan.