Everybody knows that laughing feels good, but often we don’t realise how valuable these simple things can be in improving our everyday wellbeing. 1st May is World Laughter Day, so today I want to highlight and celebrate some of the amazing benefits of laughter!
Short-term benefits of Laughter
A good laugh has great short-term effects. When you start to laugh, it doesn't just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body. Laughter can:
- Stimulate your organs: Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain. These endorphins can help to boost your mood, making you feel both mentally and physically better.
- Activate and relieve your stress response: A big belly-laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response, and it can increase and then decrease your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A more positive, relaxed feeling for your body and mind.
- Stimulate circulation: Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.
Long-term benefits of Laughter
We might see laughter as a tool for a quick pick-me-up, but did you know there are long term effects too? Regular laughter has been proven to:
- Improve your immune system: Consistent negative thoughts and feelings can manifest physically into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. By contrast, positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses, boosting your immune system in the long run.
- Relieve pain: A team of Swiss researchers reported that laughter and humour can increase pain tolerance and improve quality of life. According to Thomas Benz (RehaClinic Zurzach, Switzerland), targeted humour interventions should be part of pain therapy. In the Swiss team’s research, people laughing at comedy films were able to keep their hands in ice water longer than those who were not laughing. Subsequent measurement showed that increased pain tolerance remained present 20 minutes after laughing. A possible explanation could be that humour activates the release of endorphins and relieves muscular tension, thus having an effect on pain on both a mental and physical level.
- Increase personal satisfaction: Laughter can make it easier to cope with difficult situations. It also helps you connect with other people - have you ever tried not to laugh when you’re with friends who are laughing? Laughter is contagious, and helps to support our social wellbeing and feeling of connection to each other too.
Go ahead and give it a try! Turn the corners of your mouth up into a smile and then give a laugh, even if it feels a little forced. Once you've had your chuckle, take stock of how you're feeling. Are your muscles a little less tense? Do you feel more relaxed? That's the natural magic of laughing at work.