They say that “laughter is the best medicine” and while many medical professionals would surely believe they have at least a few remedies that can top laughter, it turns out that in many ways, laughter really does help your mental (and physical) health.
When you look at the many benefits that laughter can bring to your emotional life, you might want to consider seeking out ways that you can laugh more on the daily.
Everywhere from the renowned Mayo Clinic to Dr. Hunter Doherty “Patch” Adams and his Gesundheit! Institute have studied ways in which laughing can be linked to stress relief. This concept has created a whole branch of study known as Gelotology where researchers look for answers as to how laughter affects different people. Those who have embarked on this kind of research have discovered reasons as to why the phenomenon of laughing is so helpful for physical and mental health.
How Laughing Relieves Stress
Laughing stimulates endorphins: The brain stimulants that fill the happiness center aren’t just excited when you find something funny. According to evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar, in an article for the New York Times, the actual physical action of laughing triggers endorphins as well as a connection between people. This effect, Dr. Dunbar found, leads to improved pain resistance as well as creating a great stress relief system for you. This means that just the act of smiling triggers a positive stress-reducing response.
Laughing reduces stress hormones: The stress hormone known as cortisol is decreased by laughter, because the action of laughing improves circulation and adds oxygen to the system, in effect, flushing out your stress. In a study by Lee Burk at Loma Linda University in California, they discovered that 30 minutes after watching humorous videos, participants of a study demonstrated 39% lessened cortisol levels.
Laughter fights depression: Beyond just the rush of endorphins, laughing creates a cocktail of chemical reactions in your brain including adrenaline and serotonin that has been shown to help with depression in general. Because these are chemicals that those that suffer from depression tend to have in lessened degrees, laughter has actually been used in treatment. For those of us who just get blue every once in a while, the same kind of therapy can do a world of good.
How to Add More Laughter to Your Life
What makes you laugh? Biting satire, slapstick comedy, romantic misadventures? If you know what you like, it’s a great idea for your mental state to seek out your favorite comedy when trying to relieve stress. Whether you’re a grad student getting their Master of Science in Nursing or a manager feeling stressed at work, just small doses of humor during the day can revive your spirit and give you physical benefits as well.
Get your comedy on social: following funny Instagram profiles, or people that aggregate humorous memes can give you bite-sized comedy moments that will allow you to get through your day with less stress. Give yourself a chance to check in with these periodically, particularly after a stressful activity.
Listen to comedy in your free time: Millions of people quote that stress bookends their workdays because of a crazy commute. Combat this stress specifically with comedy podcasts that allow you to be distracted from the crush of humanity that makes commuting so anxiety-inducing.
Get funny with exercise: The gym is a place where you could also use improved circulation and more oxygenated blood. Adding a laugh to your gym routine can potentially garner better results. In fact, there is a laughter based yoga practice that trains the body to be more open to this phenomenon, thus creating improved health.
Join a comedy class: comedy practitioners often quote their work as what gives them a stress-relieving boost. You can learn to be funny too! The action of taking an improv or stand-up comedy class will give you a chance to blow off steam and allow you the space to work on focusing on your own brand of humor.
Seek out comedy after stressful situations: When you are stressed, you may not feel like a laugh, but actively looking for the comedy section on your favorite streaming service will be a great way to relieve your stress.
Meet/talk with old friends: Often your old friends have the best ways to connect with you about the funny things that happened in your life. There’s nothing like shared humorous experiences and inside jokes to bring on a flood of positive emotions that can destress and help your mental health.
There’s nothing funny about stress. It can cause serious mental and physical harm including cardiac illness. Seeking out ways to relieve stress with humor, however, can have physically and emotionally positive effects. So don’t forget to go and have a laugh, it’s good for you!