“We don’t laugh because we are happy. We are happy because we laugh.”
~ William James – philosopher
What can lift your mood in seconds, can be done alone or with others, is infectious and best of all is free?
This week a couple of events reminded me of how important laughter is to maintaining good health and well-being.
Early in the week I attended the memorial service for a family friend who had lived with illness most of her life and in her later years had lost her sight. A number of those who paid tribute referred to how their friend was always laughing, at herself and life. One person stated that laughter had been our friend’s best medicine.
Later that day at a meeting of the Wellington Improvisers Troupe (WIT) a couple of people talked about how much they look forward to the weekly training sessions because those two hours we spend together, acting silly, guarantee lots and lots of laughs and provide such a powerful, positive emotional boost after a stress filled day or week.
Our mind and body simply love laughter.
The health benefits of laughter have been widely researched and documented. Laughter has been proven to reduce stress, aid recovery from illness (read up on Norman Cousins) improve our ability to withstand pain, boost antibody levels, restore energy, lower blood pressure and massage the heart. Cardiologists believe that one minute of laughter is worth 40 minutes of deep relaxation; and that 100 laughs a day are equal to a 10-minute jog. Like exercise, laughing causes the body to release endorphins which serve to make us feel better. I don’t know about you, but laughing 100 times, has much more appeal than jogging.
Check out this infographic, which sets out the range of benefits to be gained from laughing for just 10 -20 minutes a day.
To reap these benefits simply choose to laugh more; to include laughter into your daily routine. Here are some suggestions for how you might do this:
• pay attention to silly things you or others do
• learn to laugh at yourself
• recall funny experiences
• avoid all those real life documentaries and watch lots of comedies instead
• read a funny book
• join WIT!
• trawl YouTube for amusing videos
• laugh with your friends
• Take some laughing yoga classes
and finally if nothing else works, just fake some laughter. Fake laughter has been shown to have similar benefits to real laughter, because acting a feeling helps to create that feeling.
I included ‘learn to laugh at yourself’ in the list above. It’s important that we learn to laugh at ourselves. Widows of heart attack victims often report that their husbands had lost their sense of humour and the ability to laugh at themselves. People who have a sense of humour have learned to laugh at themselves and not to take life too seriously. In fact, a sense of humour is high on the list of what we look for in other people when forming relationships, because laughter is one of the ways we bond with other people.
The great thing about laughter is that once you start, you just can’t stop, and the effects on lowering your anxiety and stress levels are instantaneous.
So my challenge to you this week is to consciously choose to laugh more!
Wishing you a wonderful, laughter filled, week.
PS. did you know that an expert in the science of laughter is called a Gelotologist (from the Greek root gelos, to laugh).
PPS. Humour scholars started to meet formally and discuss findings at international conferences starting in 1976. The American Association for Therapeutic Humor (www.aath.org) was founded in 1987, and the formation of the International Society for Humor Studies (http://www.hnu.edu/ishs ─ based in Europe) followed in 1988. These two organisations have published hundreds of articles on the health benefits of laughter.
Tony Yuile is a Clinical Hypnotherapist and Performance Coach based in Wellington, NZ where he specialises in helping people suffering from anxiety, stress, panic, phobias, trauma, depression and other anxiety related issues. Tony uses a range of techniques that may include coaching, clinical hypnotherapy, mindfulness, neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and various psychotherapy approaches. If you are looking for 1:1 tailored support, contact Tony today to discuss what options might be available to you. If you think Tony could help someone you know, you might like to encourage them to get in touch.
This article contains the personal views and opinions of the author, which may change over time. It is intended to be for information only and does not constitute medical advice. For medical and health advice, always consult a qualified medical professional.