You know when you’re feeling lousy or low, and your best friend knows just the joke to crack to get you to laugh? Or when you hear another person laugh loudly in a restaurant and can’t help yourself but smile?
Laughter is guaranteed to make you feel better no matter your mood or state of being. Laughter has magical healing abilities, and it’s actually proven by science! By decreasing your stress hormones, your immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies are increased, which makes you more resistant to disease. And that’s only the beginning.
Laughter has both long-term and short-term effects on one’s overall health and well-being. Short-term benefits include increasing your endorphins, relieving stress, soothing tension, and so much more. As an advocate for positive endorphins and all things mental health, you can already see why I’m a huge advocate of getting in a belly-laugh workout every day.
In addition to relieving pain in the short-term, laughter can also improve your immune system in the long-term.
Negative thoughts will increase stress levels in one’s system, which can lead to a weakened immune system over time. Alternatively, positive thoughts or laughter release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially hinder more severe illnesses. Laughing more can help you live longer by preventing the escalation of stress hormones and increasing your mood at the same time!
Clearly, laughter affects not only physical health but the mental health of a person as well. “Laughter can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations. It also helps you connect with other people,” according to the Mayo Clinic. It’s no wonder there’s the popular saying, “laughter is the best medicine.” Apparently, there’s more truth in that quote than we originally thought!
On top of that, another age-old story is true: laughter is contagious. Similar to a yawn, when we see someone laughing, our brains react and begin prepping our muscles for laughter. A study from the University College London found that laughter may have even been our first language. When you think about it, it rings true that laughter is universal — much like crying or smiling. Any of our guttural reactions are often the same around the world. In addition, the same study found that laughter has the ability to bring people together.
“It [laughter] could play an important role in building strong bonds between individuals in a group.”
When making a new group of friends, one of the first things you often do to gain acceptance is make a joke. If they laugh, you know that you’re like-minded because your humor aligns (and you instantly get a sense of belongingness too). As you build memories with these friends, you’ll start to develop inside jokes, which will only strengthen your bond even more.
Even if you get in a fight with friends or loved ones, you are more likely to remember the good memories you have together in times of turmoil. These memories often include a funny or embarrassing story that makes you laugh even if it happened years ago. According to a BBC study, our unpleasant memories fade faster due to a “pan-cultural phenomenon [that] helps individuals to process negativity and adapt to changes in their environment whilst retaining a positive outlook on life.” This means that we’re innately optimistic creatures who choose not to dwell on the negative memories in our lives.
By focusing on the positive memories, we are setting ourselves up for success and a healthy mental state. Sure, it’s easier said than done… That’s why there’s laughter to swing us back to the positive state even when we’re in doubt! You might be reading this and think, “okay, great, but how can I laugh when the world feels like it’s falling apart?” Well, maybe this is the time that we need unifying laughter the most.
As the world continues to adjust to a new normal, we must remind ourselves to find the positives in abnormal situations — even in the abnormality of what will be remembered as 2020. We must focus on making happy memories and making sure we get in a good laugh when we can. Because once quarantine or the year is over (whichever comes first), we won’t want to dwell on the hours spent staring at the ceiling or watching the news. We will want to look back on the times we found pockets of joy and slivers of laughter. We will want to remember that no matter how weird our world gets, there’s always a weirder reason to laugh.