Feeling Stressed? Try Laughing
Go ahead and laugh; it’s not only good for the soul, but for your health! Think back to a time when you remember laughing so hard that your face or your abs hurt, or you even cried? How did you feel, what did you notice about yourself? What did it relieve?
Laughing is healthy and we all need these moments of carefree bliss. Laughing relieves stress, improves your immune system and overall mood. It can also ease pain or tension by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers. Below are a few facts about laughter provided by the American Psychological Association (APA):
Did you know that laughter has ancient roots and is different than humor? University of Maryland Psychology professor Robert Provine, PhD, explains that "Laughter and humor are related but different things," Provine says. "Laughter is ancient. It's a primate play vocalization. Humor is a more modern, cognitive and linguistic development. There was laughter long before there was humor." In Provine’s research, he found:
- Laughter was 30 times more frequent in social situations than solitary ones. When alone, people were much more likely to talk to themselves or smile than to laugh.
- Laughter is contagious. Just listening to someone else laugh can be enough to start a person laughing.
- Individuals respond more positively to a laugh when in conversation.
- We often think of laughter as a response to someone else speaking. But in conversation, speakers are 46 percent more likely to laugh than their audiences are, punctuating their own talk with laughter.
The Mayo Clinic discusses many of the health benefits of laughing and how it can contribute to an overall increase in your health and well-being. These benefits include:
- An increase in mood: Laughter can help trigger the release of endorphins, the “feel good” chemical to relieve stress or pain and help you feel better.
- Tension and stress relief: A good laugh can relieve physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles feeling relaxed after the fact. Laughter also stimulates circulation which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.
- Boosts your immune system: Laughter stimulates your heart, lungs, and muscles causing your oxygen intake to enhance blood flow and increase your heart rate while decreasing stress hormones. The increase in immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies can improve your resistance to disease over time.
- A natural pain reliever: The “feel good” endorphins that are released when laughing promote an overall sense of well-being and can temporarily relieve pain. A natural way to relieve pain that you may be experiencing.
- Relationship building: Laughter truly is contagious. According to Sophie Scott, a neuroscientist at the University College London, the brain responds to the sound of laughter and preps the muscles in the face to join in. This response in the brain acts as a mirroring behavior when interacting with others to create connection. It can help us interact socially and build strong bonds with each other.
First, start by smiling and then give a laugh, even if it feels forced. Notice how you feel. Are your muscles less tense or do you feel more relaxed? Try it again.
This time, after you laugh write down what you are experiencing. It may still feel forced, but the goal is to bring mindfulness and awareness to the feeling that laughter produces.
Pay attention to how you feel next time you laugh and give yourself permission to do this often. It’s all-natural, free, and easy to do.
Thanks for reading!
Leanne Konzelman, M.A., LMHCA
Founder, Novo Life Counseling