It’s free, easy and can improve your health
There’s chuckling, giggling, chortling, cracking up, splitting your sides and being in stitches. As you might have guessed, the topic is laughing. Did you know it can improve your mental and physical health?
Laughter is a physiological response that, oddly enough, we share with apes and rats, says National Geographic.
You may have seen a chimp laugh (think of Cheetah having a good time with Tarzan.) They say if you tickle a rat, they laugh…and seem to enjoy it! We’ll take National Geographic’s word for it.
With humans, evidence is building that laughing actually prompts short-term physical changes for the better in our bodies.
- Reduces your stress response, releases feel-good hormones such as endorphins and boosts your heart rate.
- Increases the amount of oxygen-rich air you take in and stimulates circulation, which is good for your heart, lungs and muscles.
- Relieves tension. Changes resulting from laughing will make you feel better and more relaxed.
As a bonus, laughter also has some long-term benefits for you. It:
- Enhances your mood beyond the short term and helps manage depression.
- Reduces anxiety.
- Increases blood flow in your body. That helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems and improves brain function.
- Boosts your immune system. Stress can prompt chemical reactions in the body that can reduce your natural immunity. Laughing counteracts negative thoughts by releasing neuropeptides that help fight stress and reduce risks for diseases.
Want to bring more laughter into your life? Here are some quick tips:
- Put up a few photos, comics or greeting cards that make you happy. Post them where you do your work and around your home.
- Visit the library and check out a funny book, movie or comedy album. Or take one of each.
- Visit online comedy/joke websites you like.
- Go with friends to a comedy club.
- Try laughter yoga. It’s premeditated laughing while doing yoga. Even thinking about this approach to yoga might make you laugh!
- Laugh about situations you find yourself in. The more often you laugh, the more natural it will become.
While most of us find a mood boost in laughter, for some, depression or another mental health condition may make it hard to laugh. These conditions can also interfere with daily routines. In those cases, a behavior health professional can help. Don’t hesitate to reach out. A simple connection can be a first positive step toward living well — and laughing more!
Janet Schirtzinger is a marriage and family therapist and a social worker. She manages the clinical services at the Aurora Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
About the Author
Janet Schirtzinger, LMFT, LCSW is a marriage and family therapist and a social worker. She manages the clinical services at the Aurora Employee Assistance Program (EAP).