“Laughter is the best medicine” is a phrase that has been around for a long time. Unlike many of the “old wives’ tales” that get passed down from generation to generation, however, this one is actually true. Research has shown that there are significant benefits of laughter, particularly when it comes to mental health.
Adults, however, don’t laugh as much as they should, and so miss out on many of the benefits of laughter. To put this into perspective, children laugh up to 400 times a day, while adults on average laugh only 15 times a day. It’s important, therefore, to understand the benefits of laughter, and why it’s vital that we find ways to increase the amount of laughter in our daily lives.
Mental Benefits of Laughter
There are incredible mental benefits of laughter, and these go far beyond simply reducing stress levels. In fact, laughter can help people to heal from mental health difficulties, and even prevent further episodes of mental illness.
The benefits of laughter when it comes to mental health are wide-ranging. These include:
- Reducing anger – laughter helps to defuse angry outbursts and resolve conflicts. It’s also an effective means of reducing self-directed anger and self-blame.
- Reducing intense distressing emotions – laughter can help people to handle emotions such as anxiety and depression. Laughter can also help when someone is going through a time of grief.
- Offering a different perspective – when you’re experiencing mental health difficulties, it can be overwhelming, but laughter aids in seeing your situation from a different point of view. It can be a means of escape from negative or distressing thinking, too.
- Relieving stress and releasing endorphins
- Helping with relaxation and revitalization – one of the benefits of laughter is to help us to relax and increase our energy levels and focus.
Reducing Stress Hormones
The stress relieving benefits of laughter are well documented in a variety of studies. These benefits are really important for mental and physical health. Having a good laugh reduces the levels of certain hormones that are associated with stress. These hormones include cortisol, epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) and norepinephrine. When these hormones are reduced, you experience less anxiety and are better able to cope with whatever situations arise.
Reducing stress hormones doesn’t just benefit you mentally, either. Reducing stress hormones through laughter gives your immune system a big boost, too. This means that you’re less likely to fall ill.
Research has shown that one of the major benefits of laughter is the release of endorphins – which are known as the brain’s “feel-good chemicals”. Endorphins have many benefits, not least their ability to help us to handle pain, by increasing pain thresholds. For people living with chronic pain – which can have serious negative effects on mental health, too – laughter’s release of endorphins can be life-changing. Endorphins are generally released through exercise – so for people unable to exercise, laughter is a great alternative.
Can Help Improve Uncomfortable or Depressed Mood
Psychiatrists advocate laughter as a means of dealing with episodes of depression. In some cases, laughter can be as effective as talk therapy in coping with depressed mood. One of the reasons that laughter is so effective is because it changes brain chemistry A study conducted by Italian researchers in 2010 demonstrated that laughter has a positive effect on regions of the brain involved in depression – and can even counteract depressive symptoms.
Laughter as a Coping Skill
An important aspect of the benefits of laughter is the way that it can be used as a coping skill to handle all kinds of situations. It’s simple and costs nothing – and there are a variety of ways that you can incorporate more laughter into your life to cope with the troubles of daily life.
Intentionally seeking to laugh more is a great way of reaping the benefits of laughter both physically and mentally. When you consider the number of times children laugh each day compared to adults, it’s clear that adults have a lot of catching up to do. Learning to take yourself less seriously is a good place to start.
You should aim to practice laughing more every day. When life is busy and stressful, laughter is often the last thing on your mind – but it’s important to find time to incorporate more laughter into your life. Prioritize laughter by making it a part of your daily routine. Laugh with friends, with family, or on your own. You could even consider laughter yoga and laughter clubs to get more laughter into your life.
Laughter Yoga is a growing phenomenon that started out in India in the 1990s. It turns laughter into a form of physical exercise that more and more people are practicing. One of the great benefits of laughter yoga is that it teaches you how to laugh for absolutely no reason.
Laughter clubs have been taking place since 1995, and there are laughter clubs all over the world. It may seem like a strange phenomenon, but laughter clubs have proven to be very effective in increasing laughter. They help people to get into a laughter routine, using laughter exercises. Doctors are now recommending that people join laughter clubs to reap the benefits of laughter for their physical and mental health.
Reaping the Benefits of Laughter for Health
Laughter helps to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression – and the benefits can be physical, too. Laughter helps your muscles to relax, as well as increasing the amount of oxygen you breathe in. What’s more, laughter helps you to cope with pain. By far, however, the mental benefits are the greatest.
It can be challenging to incorporate more laughter into your life – especially if you’re stressed and don’t feel as if you have much to laugh about. Practicing laughter yoga or joining a laughter club might help if you’re struggling to laugh more, or you can simply be more intentional about laughter. However you go about increasing your laughter levels, it’s important to make it a priority in order to reap the benefits for your physical and mental health.
If you find yourself still struggling on your own to add a little more laughter to your life, there are people who can help. A qualified therapist can help you find the best way to integrate laughter into your life, as well as help you build other healthy habits. Learn more here.