Benefits of Laughter for Stress
Sad? Angry? Depressed? In a toxic relationship? In a dead-end relationship? Stressed out? Feeling ill? Feeling anxiety? Recovering from surgery? Dealing with too many details? Tired or worn out?
At one time or another we have experienced a myriad of these emotions and feelings, sometimes several at once. During these emotional ups and downs, we often neglect the notion that there might be a temporary cure for these physically and mentally debilitating feelings: Laughter.
Laughter creates euphoric feelings producing a temporary relief from stress. Stress can tear down the body's defenses. Even some relief from stress hormones can have a tremendous positive impact. At times, it may not be appropriate to laugh, but we might not be able to help it. Our bodies crave the positive effects of the chemical and physical reactions of laughter when we are going through a difficult time. Laughter therapy can heal the mind and body.
When I need help laughing, I love watching the laughing chimp.
The Benefits of Laughter are Chemical
Laughter releases endorphins that help us get through negative feelings. Endorphins act as a natural opiate in the body. When endorphins are released, they fight stress hormones, can relieve pain, can release euphoric feelings, and can release sex hormones. People who do not have a sense of humor may be putting their health at risk. Being serious all the time or feeling negative all the time wears on the body and mind. The endorphins needed to feel content may be missing.
Studies show that the endorphins that are released into the body from laughter can make one feel temporarily better are also effective for:
- fighting depression and anxiety
- lowering blood pressure
- helping the healing process during illness and/or after surgery
- helping patients with heart problems, cancer, and the common cold.
The endorphins aid the immune system while you are healing. How many have heard of a person with a wonderful sense of humor and attitude recovering from an illness completely? Maybe there is something to “it’s all in the attitude.” A bad attitude is harmful to the body, and a good laugh can help alleviate the negative effects of the bad attitude. The boost to the immune system is worth the giggle, the guffaw, the snorting, the tears rolling down your cheeks from laughing too hard, but it is up to each person how to deal with what ails them. To laugh or not to laugh is the question.
The Benefits from Laughter are Physical
Laughter is exercising? What? Exercising? Yes, while laughing, the facial muscles, stomach, lungs, and heart are getting a workout. Laughing so hard that it hurts is like exercising the muscles and organs and is taking in much needed oxygen. The oxygen goes throughout the whole body giving the that added boost needed to feel more energized. The heart is beating faster pushing the oxygen through the veins and to every part of the body. The endorphins are the neurotransmitters that are running through the brain to the body helping with physical and mental well-being.
Maybe you would prefer a laughing cat. These little toys do get the giggles started.
Adding Laughter When You Don’t Feel Like Laughing
Sometimes laughter must be forced for its natural health benefits. We do not feel like laughing when we are sick, broken-hearted, experiencing a panic attack, or wallowing in our sorrows.
Below are some ideas to add laughter at a time when it doesn't feel natural. Get ready to "get your laugh on."
Okay, this is going to sound really crazy. Practice laughing is basically fake laughter at first. Once you get started, you are forcing the happy chemicals to start brewing. You may want to do this alone. I did this to experiment with laughter. It was a very stressful week, so I just started laughing. My dogs looked at me like, “What the…??” If the neighbors heard me, I am quite sure they had decided I had gone mad. The more I watched the dogs and thought about the neighbors' possible reactions, I did start to genuinely laugh. The stress melted away for most of the evening. Little things would set me off to more forms of laughter. Having the giggles was much more pleasant than allowing the stress hormones to run wild, making me have mini-anxiety attacks.
Be with Funny People
In your low times, you need your friends. Not just any friends, but the ones who love you enough to make you laugh when you have hit rock bottom. Don’t go with the friends who will enable you by jumping on the bandwagon and wallow in your misery. This is counterproductive for your mental and physical well-being. This is not to say the problems causing the stress should be ignored. Talk about them, but do so with someone who is bound to find humor in the situation with a joke or a humorous distraction. Humor therapy is best shared with a friend. It is guaranteed you will feel better before the day’s end.
So You Are Alone
Turn on the television to your favorite sitcom marathon. Some recommendations would be I Love Lucy, M*A*S*H, Andy Griffeth, Friends, Seinfeld, and/or Big Bang Theory. You may have other favorites and may even want to buy a collection or two just for these cases of desperation.
If you can’t find a television comedy to enjoy, get some favorite movie comedies, whether it is romantic, foolish, or dark comedy. Jim Carey, Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, and Tyler Perry make many laugh with their movies. Some of my personal favorites are Dumb and Dumber, Happy Gilmore, There’s Something About Mary, Beverly Hills Cop, and Diary of a Mad Black Woman. Create your own list to fall back on.
It’s true. Laughter has proven to be so beneficial to our physical and mental health that Laughter Yoga has been created as a class to attend. What do you do for Laughter Yoga? You laugh, of course. You laugh from the very center of your being with an instructor to lead you and fellow classmates to follow along. Sound crazy? Big deal! These people are laughing themselves into good health while others are digging their own grave by wallowing.
In a Laughter Yoga class, the laughter is contagious. It may be full of complete strangers, but the laughter begins to come naturally and encompasses all in the class.
Final Words on Laughter
Of course there are times when you will not feel like laughing. If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, you are not finding ways to cheer yourself up, and it is quite natural to go through the grieving process. There comes a point, though, when you must remember your own health. Do what you have to do for your family, friends, or job, but do not allow yourself to sink so low that your immune system breaks down and you can’t get back up. Only you are responsible for your physical health, or you may help others with laughter for their health too. So find ways to laugh.
My Favorite Video When I Need to Laugh
© 2012 Susan Holland
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