We all have heard a million times that laughter is the best medicine, but do you know the science behind this advice?
According to the Mayo Clinic, laughing improves our body and mind and is one of the simplest tools we have for reducing stress and anxiety. It is free, always available to us, and has no harmful side effects (except maybe some sore stomach muscles from laughing so hard).
Helpguide.org, a wonderful resource about mental health and wellness, explains that “nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humor lightens your burdens, inspires hopes, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert.”
Benefits Of Laughter
Here are some amazing ways that laughter helps us feel more relaxed and balanced:
- Activates the ventromedial prefrontal cortex of our brain, resulting in the release of the feel-good hormones called endorphins. These chemicals create feelings of pleasure and satisfaction, and also relieve pain.
- Reduces our stress response because the level of stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline), and dopamine are lowered.
- Allows us to take in more oxygen-rich air, which stimulates our heart, lungs, and muscles.
- Relaxes our muscles, which soothes tension from stress. A good laugh can leave your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes afterwards.
- Improves our immune system.
- Helps us recharge by increasing energy and improving focus.
- Engages the limbic system, the part of the brain that manages our mood and emotions.
- Offers a healthy distraction from negative emotions like anger, guilt, and stress.
- Gives us a more lighthearted perspective when faced with challenges.
- Helps us view stressful events as positive challenges as opposed to threats.
- Gives us the courage and strength to find new sources of meaning and hope.
- Dissolves distressing emotions because it is hard to feel anxious, angry, or sad while laughing.
- Creates psychological distance to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
- Links us to others, creating a sense of comraderie.
- Creates a more joyous, positive environment. Since laughter is contagious, when we hear others laughing our automatic response (driven by the brain’s action) is to smile and join in all the fun around us.
Other Fascinating Facts About Laughter
- Did you know that you get the same benefits just by thinking about laughing? In 2006, researchers discovered that simply anticipating laughter boosts positive hormones and reduces the harmful ones that cause stress.
- Fake laughter is just as effective as real laughter. Even if we don’t particularly feel like laughing or smiling, we can fake it and still reap the health benefits. The body is unable to tell the difference between forced laughter and genuine laughter that comes from a true reaction to humor. However, the physical benefits are exactly the same. So, even if your funny bone isn’t tickled, force yourself to laugh and you will eventually feel better.
- For more intriguing facts about laughter, check out this super helpful infographic by Happify.
How To Add More Laughter To Our Lives
Unfortunately, most adults do not laugh enough. In fact, one study found that healthy children may laugh as much as 400 times per day, but adults tend to laugh only 15 times per day. So, the good news here is that our children laugh way more than we do. But we need to raise them in such a way that they will continue to experience fun and laughter in their lives as they get older.
We can learn so much from our children when it comes to laughing more. By being more mindful and playful in our daily lives with our children, we can help accentuate a happy attitude that they will remember for a lifetime.
Here are 10 ideas to keep your family giggling throughout the day:
- Play fun games like charades, Twister, Pictionary, and Hedbanz.
- Create funny stories using Mad Libs or whisper down the lane.
- Start a laughing contest to see who can make the other person laugh first.
- Read joke books and websites, and then share your favorites with each other.
- Have a family talent show and see who comes up with the funniest routine.
- Look for silly moments throughout the day during mundane activities like grocery shopping or when stuck in traffic.
- Watch a comedy television show or movie together as a family.
- Listen to silly songs and challenge your kids to make up their own as well.
- Keep a collection of funny quotes and pictures that you can bring out at anytime to get everyone laughing.
- Try laughter yoga with your kids. Created by Dr. Madan Katari in 1995 in Bombay, India, this yoga practice combines breathing exercises, yoga, stretching, and laughing. Look for resources like Laughter Friends and LiveStrong.com’s guide to teaching laughter yoga to children.
How do you keep your family laughing?