Laughter is an amazing gift from God that helps us cope with everyday life. It’s a happy, pleasant experience that changes our emotional response to stress. It temporarily distracts us from our problems and helps us see the brighter side of life. Choosing to laugh doesn’t change your circumstances, but how you view them.
Researchers evaluating participants before and after a humorous event found that episodes of laughter helped reduce pain, decreased stress-related hormones and improved immunity.
“Laughter boosts the immune system, so that we are less likely to get ill, and if we do get ill, we can recover quicker,” says Lesley Lyle, author of Laugh Your Way to Happiness.
As the philosopher and author Bertrand Russell said, “Laughter is the most inexpensive and most effective wonder drug. Laughter is a universal medicine.” Researchers still credit its benefits against medical conditions.
Benefits for the mind
Laughter reduces mental tension and increases energy, enabling you to stay focused and do more. Both sides of the brain are stimulated during laughter, encouraging clarity, humour and creativity, and better problem-solving ability.
People who laugh easily and often have better self-esteem and a much more positive outlook on life in general. In the bigger picture, laughter is a survival skill that relieves tension, keeping us flexible instead of rigid in the face of change.
Michael Cortina, director of outpatient services at the Regional Mental Health Centre in Indiana, USA, found that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be successfully treated with laughter.
“The therapy, developed by Florida therapist Jon Connelly, is geared to people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder who experienced a traumatic event or who deal with anxiety, guilt or frozen grief, among other conditions,” Cortina said.
Proverbs 15:13 tells us that “A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.” Laughter certainly acts as a buffer from daily demands, enabling you to have a positive perspective that allows you to concentrate on the things that really matter in your life.
Benefits for health
For millennia humour has been known to have healing properties, for, as the Bible’s book of Proverbs says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (17:22). It is recognised that, indeed, laughter reinforces your immune system, protecting the body against cancerous activity, by boosting your white blood cells, which help fight tumour cells.
It also reduces the chance of respiratory infections, because laughing uses your full lung capacity. When you laugh, you take deeper breaths, utilising your entire lung, helping to clean out your respiratory system and more fully oxygenate your blood.
When you laugh you activate as many as 15 facial muscles, working together to help you smile out loud. This increases the blood flow around the face and to the skin surface, helping make you look younger and healthier.
And laughter boosts the production of serotonin, a natural anti-depressant. It also works as an effective distraction from things that cause anxiety and anger.
Benefits for relationships
Laughter is contagious, and you’re more likely to laugh in the company of others than on your own. Says Lyle: “The reason laughing is contagious is because of the activity of mirror neurons. When we see people laugh or yawn, we tend to react by displaying the same behaviour. As soon as we see or hear someone laugh, our neurons are stimulated and they ‘fire off’ so that we have an automatic response and laugh, too.”
And the more laughter you bring into your own life, the happier those around you will be.
Laughter doesn’t only come from hearing jokes, but from spending time with friends and family. Laughing with someone makes you feel happier, positive and relaxed, regardless of your circumstances.
Shared laughter contributes to a stimulating and exciting relationship. All emotional sharing builds strong and lasting relationship bonds, but sharing laughter also adds cheerfulness and positive energy. Humour is a powerful and effective way to heal resentments, disagreements and hurts. It unites people during difficult times.
Laughter can be used as an ice-breaker for managing conflict and reducing tension during heated moments. Whether with romantic partners, friends, family or co-workers, you can use humour to smooth over disagreements, lower stress levels and communicate in a way that restores relationships.
By choosing to laugh and foster happiness, you’ll have more energy to enjoy life so you can overcome challenges with a positive attitude. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
The health information in this article is drawn from the following sources:
- Lyle, L (2014). Laugh Your Way to Happiness, Watkins Publishing Limited, USA.
- Tickell, J (2013). Love, Laugh and Eat, Longevity Plus Pty Ltd, New York.
- Ferguson, ER (2013). Super Healing, Health Communications, Inc, Florida.