A good laugh is better for you than you might think. Laughter brings both happiness and vitality into our lives. Children under the age of six naturally laugh up to 300 times a day, but by the time we reach adulthood that number drops to under ten.
That’s something to consider, it’s not just the loss of joy that we lose as we age, but also some real emotional and physical benefits. Here are some things to think about.
Laughter helps us emotionally
Laughter is one of the most powerful, natural stress relievers available to us. Laughter lowers the stress hormones, cortisol and adrenalin. It works to buffer the mind against the negatives of life. People who use humor to fight stress are apt to feel less lonely and much more positive about themselves and their situation.
On a psychological level, laughter teaches us to let go of control, allowing the mind to be in the moment Laughter helps us transcend our problems, brings us closer to people and helps us to think more clearly.
Laughter benefits us physically
There is a growing body of research on the health benefits of laughter. Dr. William Fry of Stanford University Medical School compares laughter to a form of physical exercise. Laughter lowers your blood pressure and heart rate. It also improves lung capacity, massages the internal organs and improves digestion by working the chest and abdominal muscles. According to Dr. Fry laughing 100-200 times per day is the cardiovascular equivalent of rowing for 10 minutes.
Laughter is also one of the most commonly used complementary therapies among cancer patients, who find that one of the benefits of laughter is an improved quality of life.
Laughter has been reported to be healthy for your heart as well. Some research shows that when you laugh, there is an increase in oxygen-rich blood flow in your body, possibly due to the release of endorphins, which create a chemical rush that counters negative feelings and stress.
So with all these great benefits how do we bring more laughter into our lives?
Just pretend to laugh. You can build the act of laughter into your daily routine. This might be a strange concept to some, the idea of making laughter part of a routine. When we don’t naturally feel like laughing, forcing laughter feels uncomfortable and false.
However, if you’re facing tough times such as an illness, work stress, family or financial problems it may help to learn some laughter techniques. You can try the old standards such as renting a funny movie or reading jokes but this leaves laughter to chance.
It is possible to laugh independent of mood. You can make a conscious effort to laugh. All it takes is the willingness to pretend. By unabashedly mimicking the sound of laughter, you can reap the same benefits as real laughter. The body can’t tell the difference and when you sustain the sound of laughter, sometimes the mind gives in and real laughter emerges in full.
You can join the "laughter movement" to learn about the benefits of laughter while fighting stress. This specialized combination of yoga breathing techniques and exhalation creates a self-induced “laugh” that provides all the benefits of laughter rooted in humor.
Another option is to find a laughter club. There are now over 6000 laughter clubs worldwide where people meet regularly to “practice” laughing together. If there are no clubs around you and you need some support to get going, visit “Laughter Yoga International” and just follow one of the numerous videos that are available online.
The funny thing about this practice, the more you do it the more you laugh. The act of laughing creates a positive behaviorally feed-back loop. So do a good thing for yourself and just laugh.