Laughter is wine for the soul – laughter soft, or loud and deep, tinged through with seriousness – the hilarious declaration made by man that life is worth living. – Sean O’Casey
Laughter is something that lightens the soul.
It makes you feel good.
It lifts up your spirits.
It also causes a psychological response within your body that can help your body fend off disease and even repair your vital organs.
In a sense, a good belly laugh is like working out, eating kale, and taking a multivitamin all at once.
But a good laugh does more than make you feel great for a few moments or give your immune system a natural boost.
There are some very real reasons why you should be laughing more.
#1. It improves your mental performance
In a randomized trial study performed by John Hopinks University Medical School, there was a link discovered between laughter and a person’s mental performance.
When people surround themselves with humor, they are able to improve their memory capacity.
As reported by study author Ron Berk, quoting logical theorist Rollo May: ‘‘Humor has the function of preserving the sense of self . . . It is the healthy way of feeling a ‘distance’ between one’s self and the problem, a way of standing and looking at one’s problem with perspective.”
It doesn’t matter what you’re trying to remember.
When you’re able to crack a smile and laugh a little more, then you’re able to detach yourself from the worries and anxieties of this world, if but for a moment, and the reward is a memory that contains information which is easy to recall.
#2. It provides an energy boost
There are some very real physiological changes that happen immediately when we laugh.
The muscles in our face stretch out.
A good belly laugh creates a full-body muscle stretch.
Laughter increases our pulse rate and raises our blood pressure, just like a high-dose energy drink tends to do.
It also causes us to breathe faster because we need more air to push out a good laugh.
This allows more oxygen to be sent throughout the body to the various tissues which need it.
How effective are these physiological benefits?
William Fry, who is considered to be one of the pioneers of laughter research, once made the claim that it took him 10 minutes on a rowing machine to equal the heart rate just one minute of a good laugh can provide.
According to WebMD, laughter can also burn calories.
A small study reported from Vanderbilt University shows that 10-15 minutes of genuine laughter can actually burn up to 50 calories.
That might not seem like a lot, but you’d have to run for 5 minutes at 5 miles per hour to burn the same amount.
Would you rather laugh for 10 minutes or put in a good 5 minute run?
Or here’s a thought – why not try doing both at the same time?
#3. It relaxes the body
Maybe you don’t need to burn off that extra piece of chocolate you ate at the office today.
Maybe you’ve had a really bad day and you’re ready to turn things around.
Laughter can help you do just that.
[quote]“Your sense of humor is one of the most powerful tools you have to make certain that your daily mood and emotional state support good health.”[/quote] – Dr. Paul E. McGhee
Laughter releases endorphins into your body that can help your muscles to relax, no matter how tense you happen to be.
It’s not just an instantaneous effect either.
One great laugh can leave your muscles feeling relaxed for up to 45 minutes.
The endorphins released will also enhance your overall wellbeing, helping you to feel content, and that can help your muscles relax even more.
For some individuals, the endorphin release can even temporarily block the discomfort of chronic pain.
So before you grab a couple painkillers for a headache, maybe try finding something to laugh about.
It might just be what your body needs to relax, especially if you’re prone to tension headaches.
#4. It provides mental health benefits
Let’s be very clear for a second: mental health concerns should always be addressed by a medical professional.
Depression, chronic anxiety, and other mental health concerns should always be taken seriously.
When developing a treatment plan with your provider, however, it may be a good idea to talk about the inclusion of laughter.
That’s because it has the ability to dissolve the difficult emotions that can often be a negative internal trigger.
Laughter also allows the mind to have an opportunity to recharge.
Because it isn’t dealing with the stress that triggers provide or trying to compensate for an imbalance in that moment, the brain can focus more on what needs to be accomplished.
This can make an overall treatment plan be more efficient and effective.
A good laugh also helps to shift a personal perspective.
In a way, it gives people dealing with difficult mental health situations an opportunity to create distance from the problem, if but for a moment.
The issues seem less threatening, which means the issues can become less overwhelming.
Over time, laughter can provide someone with the strength they need to continue on, even during a difficult day.
And the best part?
These benefits can be magnified when we’re laughing with the people whom we trust.
#5. It draws you to people
You might not be an extrovert.
You might even prefer the company of your cat over the company of a human.
There’s nothing wrong with that.
Yet when we do have social encounters with one another, a smile and a laugh will naturally draw people to you.
Smiling creates an environment where others believe you are approachable.
The reverse is also true – we naturally look for people who appear to be happy when we have a social engagement.
Even if you’re running errands – you’ll go through the grocery checkout line of the cashier that looks happy, laughs, and smiles the most.
What is so great about these public displays of joy and laughter is that they are just as contagious as a yawn tends to be.
If someone laughs, then we want to laugh.
It’s not because we’re trying to join in on a joke or want to appear more attractive to others.
It’s simply because laughter helps us feel good and that helps us hang out with other people, even when we may want to Netflix and chill on our own.
#6. It enhances confidence
You’ve got a job interview.
There is one other person who is being interviewed.
You both answer the questions in a similar way.
You have similar experiences and education.
The deciding factor is likely to be how confident you are during that interview.
Smiling and laughter portrays confidence.
The person who smiles more during the interview shows others in a non-verbal way that they have an ability to handle stressful situations with ease.
Confidence is needed in more areas of life than just a job interview.
The first day you sit in line for the school pickup is a time where being confident can help you get to know other parents.
A dinner meeting with new friends that incorporates a smile and a laugh invites more interaction opportunities.
This is because confidence helps us to build healthy relationships.
Instead of forming alliances against the negative aspects this world has to offer, laughter connects people through joyous similarities.
#7. It increases personal satisfaction
We are connected to each other like never before.
There is Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google Plus, and numerous other places where we communicate with one another.
We share everything, from restaurant reviews to real-time vacation pictures.
With all of this information going around, it is easy for some of that data to be misinterpreted.
When these difficult situations arise, a little laughter can either maintain or increase your personal satisfaction.
This is because laughter really can be a coping skill.
When difficult moments come up, many will advise writing down the feelings from those moments down so they can be recognized.
That’s a good thing, but laughter could be a better thing.
This is because laughter is something we all have in common.
Even in our darkest moments, when joy seems so far away, a momentary laugh can create a hopeful light at the end of that tunnel.
So How Do We Create More Laughter?
Maybe you don’t feel like laughing much these days.
That’s understandable. There’s a lot of bad stuff going on in our world today.
Many of those difficult moments hit far too close to home to be comfortable.
What makes laughter so great is that it is a skill that can always be relearned, refined, and redesigned.
You can start by putting humor into visual areas of your daily routine.
Put a funny comic up on your computer.
Set a funny greeting card on your dresser.
Hang up a funny poster in your office.
Just the idea of humor being seen can be enough for the mind to seek out more humor throughout the day.
Sometimes we also just need to find a way to laugh.
Sometimes we just need to laugh at ourselves because of something we said or did. None of us are perfect.
We’re going to do things sometimes that seem ridiculous in retrospect. I mean – remember when Zubaz pants were considered a serious fashion trend?
And don’t be afraid to tell a joke.
It doesn’t have to be a good joke.
Some of the best jokes are, in fact, some of the worst jokes that have ever been told in the history of the world.
Take this classic sci-fi knock-knock joke, for example:
[Insert TV intro theme music… now]
We also need to have an awareness of what is funny and what is crossing the line.
Laughter shouldn’t come at the expense of someone else.
Some jokes might be awesomely hilarious, but completely NSFW.
Good judgment can lead to a good belly laugh.
Bad judgment can create hurtful feelings.
We need more joy – not more darkness.
So yeah – laughter really is the best medicine in a number of ways.
Force yourself to have a good laugh today if that’s what it takes to show off your teeth to the world.
Watch a funny movie if you want.
Read a funny book.
Do something that has a good chance of giving yourself a chuckle.
When you do, maybe you’ll feel a little more relaxed.
Or maybe that tension headache will go away.
Or maybe something else that is incredible will happen to you.
What do you do to help find a laugh when you don’t feel like laughing? What benefits have you personally experienced from laughter?