Laughter. Though it may be harder to come by these days, laughing it up does wonders for your health, so I urge you to indulge every day. Just like getting good sleep, eating your veggies and daily exercise, laughter is an essential, particularly now, when it’s so easy for our chaotic world to drag spirits down.
Why laugh? Well, for starters, researchers have found that laughter stimulates chemical changes in the brain that help protect us against the harmful effects of chronic stress. So, what better time to laugh more than these high-stress days we’re living through? Even if you’re not feeling especially giggly (understandable), make a little effort to find the humor in things because laughter’s benefits to body and mind kick in almost immediately. To get you in the mood, here are few seriously good reasons to laugh more, plus a few thoughts on how to get more chuckles on the regular:
Laugh your way to health.
When you laugh, you’re giving yourself a quick, chemical mood boost, stimulating the release of endorphins, the same happy brain chemicals that are released after a good workout. Laugher also helps reduce inflammation; release tension in the muscles of the face, neck, shoulders, and abdomen; and helps fight viruses and tumors by giving the immune system a welcome lift. You’ll even rev up your metabolism with a few minutes of joyful guffaws. Laughing is a bit like taking your medicine, only funnier.
Your body needs and loves a good laugh.
Chances are, you’re already laughing from time to time. In fact, it’s believed that most of us do it an average of 17 times a day. Not bad, but there’s always room for improvement! In addition to making us feel good and enhancing our feelings of connection with our fellow humans, the health benefits are real at a physiological level, including:
- Increasing the activity of T-cells, aka the “killer cells” that help our bodies fight viruses and tumors.
- Increasing blood flow and circulation, which helps speed healing.
- Decreasing blood pressure and cortisol levels.
- Reducing pain.
- Helping to stabilize blood sugar.
Find your funny bone.
Not everyone is naturally funny, but sharing a laugh is a skill that can be developed. How to start raising your humor game? No need to overdo it or fake it, but studies show that even the mere act of smiling can alter your mood. So, follow the lead of others and train yourself to laugh or even just crack a smile when they do. This simple mirroring technique will help you become more comfortable with letting your social guard down and can be particularly helpful if you’re not quick with quips; have grown up in humor-free circumstances or have difficulty reading social cues.
Lighten up, gently.
All of us may have different opinions about what’s funny and what’s not, but humor works best when it’s used to foster camaraderie, engender good will and reflect the amusing foibles of human nature. To keep good feelings flowing among family, friends and officemates – not to mention those delightful endorphins – leave the snark to stand-up comedians and late-night talk show hosts. Keep the humor gentle and light-hearted and skip jokes at the expense of others. Nobody wants to be on the receiving end of a verbal pie-in-the-face, particularly now.
Make friends with laugh-lovers.
To help keep yourself buoyant amidst our currently choppy seas, minimize exposure to those glass-half-empty types in your life. No need to dump the Debbie Downers altogether, but to keep them from pulling you under, consider keeping interactions on the short side, or plan activities where laughter (or perhaps even silence) comes with the territory. It’s all about balance, and it’s healthier for you to tip the scales in favor of those love to laugh versus those who are, shall we say, chuckle-challenged.
Go to laughing class.
Laughter is infectious, in the best possible way, and one place where a healthy dose is all but guaranteed is at an online laughing meditation or laughing yoga class. In addition to the movement and/or meditation benefits, you’ll enjoy built-in guffaws, plus a rush of those feel-good endorphins and a sense of connection and community with your fellow online classmates. And one day, hopefully, you’ll be able to take laughter-based classes in person – and put an even bigger smile on your face.
Pop the workday tension balloon – fast!
Whether you’re working in a downtown office cubicle, or at home at your dining room table, work means dealing with stress. To pop the stress balloon in the absence of in-person officemates, you’ll have to DIY it and make your own fun. Assuming the boss isn’t actively looking over your shoulder, the quickest way to bust stress when you’re stuck at the desk is to watch a quick comedy clip, or any short-form video that cracks you up. A few minutes on sites like funnyordie.com or American’s Funniest Home Videos can deliver instant laughs, and a quick attitude upgrade in five minutes or less. Then, it’s back to the grind, a bit more refreshed.
Get the giggles first thing, and on your downtime.
Just as watching the news first thing in the morning and repeatedly checking it throughout the day can keep you in a state of perpetual stress and anxiety, funny stuff can have the much-needed opposite effect. By making the simple switch from 24-hour news radio and TV to comedy radio and podcasts, you can instantly lift your spirits and start your day in a more positive frame of mind. Listen to humorous podcasts on the way to work, on the way home, when you’re taking a walk, cooking, doing dishes and household chores or anytime you might otherwise be tempted to tune into the news. Granted, you should know what’s going on in the world but compulsively checking it more than once or twice a day will do far more harm than good, and quite possibly increase feelings of hopelessness and helplessness – and we say ‘no thanks’ to that!
Stockpile the funny stuff.
Keep on hand a list, or, if you’re old school, a pile of DVDs that consistently make you laugh, and dedicate an evening or two each week to enjoying them. You’ll get all the benefits of regular laughs on tap and give yourself a scheduled, and much-needed, mental mini-vacation to help you unwind from the challenges of the day. You may even rest at bit easier at night since laughter relaxes the muscles which should help you drift off (but do resist the temptation to binge-watch into the wee hours). For inspiration and an almost endless supply of laughs, take a look at Esquire’s Best Comedies to Stream on Netflix Right Now and Bravo’s Top 100 Funniest movies list.
No matter how you find a way to do it, in the words of Maya Angelou, “Laugh as much as possible, always laugh. It’s the sweetest thing one can do for oneself and one’s fellow human beings.” I couldn’t agree more!