“A day without laughter is a day wasted.”
No truer words have been spoken, because laughter is such a powerful emotion that has far reaching effects. Not only do you feel better when laughing, those around you also feel the effects of a good, deep belly laugh leaving you with happy tears streaming down your face. We’ve all had these experiences with laughter. Especially when we are gathered with friends or family, enjoying each other’s company and before we know it, we are in fits of laughter over someone else’s embarrassing moments or reliving humors moments together. More often than not, one story elicits laughs then followed by another, then another and yet another until we are grabbing our sides, from laughing so hard and for so long.
Other times, we enjoy watching something that makes us laugh—either a movie, TV show or even a comedian. Generally, we seek out comedic relief to relieve stress, for pure enjoyment, entertainment, or to enjoy a good laugh. Not only do we seek out entertainment that makes us laugh, more often than not, we share these experiences with those who are important in our lives. We want to share these moments and experiences with those who mean the most to us, because laughter is contagious and provides us with experiences to bring us closer together and moments to reflect back on later, experiencing more laughter and joy.
It has been said countless times, there is power in laughter, or that laughter is the best medicine. Aside from enjoying a good laugh with friends reminiscing about times gone by, are there any other benefits that come from a deep belly laugh? You bet! Studies have found there are health benefits associated with laughing, even giggling quietly to yourself.
There are so many reasons or situations in which laughing comes naturally. There are other times where we might laugh because the situation is awkward, embarrassing or we don’t know how else to react. There are also situations where laughing is the farthest thing from our minds, as it is deemed inappropriate or too depressing for laughter. It is in these instances and many more like them, that remind us that there is more than one way to view a situation.
There is a reason, why most people consider laughter to be the best medicine, in fact people believe it so much that they will go out of their way to find ways to bring laughter into their daily lives.
If you are looking for a way to bring laughter into your day, here are a few ideas:
- Read a funny book
- Read or tell a joke
- Watch a comedy
- Spend time with funny people
- Practice laughter yoga
- Watch your favorite comedian
When you practice laughing and actively seek out humorous things that encourage you to let loose a little bit and laugh, you will find your ability to create laughter becomes easier. So, when hard, difficult or challenging times come your way, you’ll already have mastered the skill of laughter. This will prove to be a valuable skill in times of distress as you won’t have to work as hard to find the lighter side of any given situation.
Learning to harness the power of laughter, doesn’t need to only happen during hard and challenging times, laughter can be found and harnessed during times of joy and happiness as well. Have you ever noticed that during reunions of family or friends, weddings, parties and other joyous occasions elicit bouts of laughter from those in attendance? This is because, when we are surrounded by those whom we have something in common with or that we enjoy being around; we are comfortable and enjoy reminiscing and reliving joyous occasions from the past. Additionally, during these times, we are generally carefree and happy for the occasion, therefore, we are more apt to let loose and enjoy a good laugh than we are during hard times.
Health Benefits of Laughing
Studies have found there are numerous benefits associated with laughing. Whether you are laughing at a TV show or giggling over a joke, your body reacts in a positive way. Some of the benefits of laughter include: stress relief, lower blood pressure, internal workout, hormone release and more.
We know laughter feels good, but it has far reaching effects that aren’t always as obvious. According to Dr. Lee Berk and Dr. Stanley Tan from the Loma Linda University, there are amazing benefits to be had from laughter. Here are a few of those benefits:
- Lower Blood Pressure. Individuals who have a lower blood pressure are at a reduced risk of serious health complications throughout their lifetime. Dangerous side effects associated with high blood pressure, include an increased risk of heart attack or stroke. Those with lower blood pressure are consequently at a reduced risk. Therefore, laughter not only reduces your blood pressure, but subsequently reduces your chance of heart attack and stroke.
- Reduces Stress. Stress can wreak havoc on a person’s body, which is why it is going to be in your best interest to reduce stress levels as much as possible. Additionally, when your body is under excessive amounts of stress, your immune system is compromised—not functioning at its peak efficiency. Next time you enjoy an office joke with your coworkers, or end up rolling on the ground laughing with your family, remember that you are not only reducing stress but helping boost each other’s immune system as well.
- Works Abs. For individuals who are working to tone their midsection, can benefit from incorporating a round of laughter into their day. When you laugh, your ab muscles are engaged, contracting and expanding, similarly to when you target that muscle group during an exercise routine. While your ab muscles are engaged, your other muscles groups are able to relax. Laughter is a more enjoyable way to tone your mid-section than sit-ups or crunches! So, whether you are intentionally trying to work your midsection or not, try incorporating a good, deep-belly laugh into your routine.
- Improves Cardiac Health. Similar to that of working your abs to tone your midsection, a good hardy laugh also provides an alternative cardiac workout. This is especially good news, for those individuals who have had an injury or other condition that prohibits them from participating in a traditional cardiac workout. Laughing gets your heart pumping, ultimately burning a similar number of calories as if you were walking at a slow to moderate pace.
- Boosts T-Cells. T-cells are cells found inside your body. They are special cells within the immune system, that are lying in wake, awaiting to be activated. When you laugh, your T-cells become activated, immediately working to fight off any sickness or infection that might be within your body. So, next time you start to feel a little under the weather, try adding laughter to your health care regiment to hopefully ward off the impending illness.
- Endorphins. In the famous words of Elle Woods from Legally Blonde, “Endorphins make you happy!”. Not only do endorphins make your happy, they are also your body’s natural remedy to pain. Endorphins are released not only when you are exercising and are physically active, but laughter can also trigger your body to release endorphins.
- Overall Sense of Well-Being. When you laugh, you feel better about yourself and your current situation, if even only for a brief moment or two. Those who feel better about themselves, tend to have a more positive outlook on life and their situations. Research has found that those that are more optimistic and have a more positive outlook tend to fight diseases and other ailments better than those who tend to dwell in the negativity.
As you can see, the benefits of laughter extend far beyond the four walls of the room in which you enjoy a good laugh. Engaging in a good, hearty laugh will improve not only your current outlook, but will reap drastic and immeasurable health benefits as well. So, next time you find yourself, rolling on the ground laughing or enjoying a silent chuckle to yourself, remember that your physical health is benefit from the experience as well.
Benefits of Laughter Backed by Science
Scientific studies are often performed to learn or prove ideas that we can only speculate about. As a result of a thorough and extensive study science can provide us with valuable information. Learning the full power and benefit of the power of laughter is no exception. Even though there have been few studies conducted on the power of laughter, what studies have been done provide us with valuable information about the power of laughter.
While most individuals have experienced the power and benefits that come from laughing in our own lives, a study published in Psychology Today found that in addition to having health benefits, laughter is also an important social tool.
In this study, researchers observed 1,200 individuals, laughing in their natural environments. As part of this study, researchers observed laughter in a variety of locations. Each time they overheard laughter, they would take note of the gender of the individual who was speaking prior to the laugh, the audience, who all laughed (speaker and audience, just the audience, just the speaker), and what was said immediately prior to the laughter.
Throughout all these observations, researchers discovered that what was said immediately prior to the laugh didn’t necessarily trigger the laugh, so much as another person. This suggests that laughter is stimulated from another person and not necessarily from what is being said. Thus, leading to the conclusion that laughter is a social language that we all speak. Because it is a social language, people are more inclined to laugh in social settings than they are to laugh when they are alone.
Researchers went on to further analyze the social nature of laughter through the use of laughter diaries through students. In these diaries, it was observed and confirmed they earlier observations, that laughter was 30 times more frequent in a social setting than it was in a solitary environment. Very few individuals recorded laughing to themselves in private, where as they were more apt to laugh out loud in social settings.
Researchers in this study also determined laughter is hard to control and can’t be forced. When commanded to laugh, it will generally come out sounding forced or insincere, whereas, a natural laugh will come easily and sound genuine. This simple discovery, proves we can not dictate the brain’s mechanisms for genuine expression.
Throughout the study, researchers also studied the laughing habits of males vs. females and contagious laughter, also known as the laughter virus. It was discovered that on average females laughed more than males, in fact, on average females laugh 126% more often than their male counterparts. What this translates to mean, is that females primarily do the most laughing while males do the most laugh-getting—they instigate the laughing rather than doing the laughing. This is also demonstrated in online dating profiles as many females listed “good sense of humor” as a trait they look for; and men listed “funny” or “humorous” as a personality trait.
Finally, laughter is contagious. Chances are if you’ve ever seen someone doubled over in a fit of laughter, you’ve joined in. Research has found that laughter is contagious. Which can explain why when someone around you starts laughing, others soon join in. Laughter is not only contagious, it is also powerful.
To read more about the research conducted on laughter in this study, visit: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/200011/the-science-laughter
Bringing it Home
I recently went through some pretty serious health issues that were long and extensive. Prior to receiving my diagnosis, I had countless doctors’ appointments, referrals to other physicians, tests, procedures, biopsies and surgery all trying to determine what was wrong. With a diagnosis finally reached, I began down a long and time-consuming treatment plan. My days were instantly filled with countless doctors’ appointments (on top of the ones that I had already had), daily hospital visits, regular blood draws and so much more.
When I was first diagnosed, I thought I would be relieved to finally have answers and know what was wrong with me; instead I sat and cried. I knew with my diagnosis would come a long road to recovery, one that I wasn’t sure I wanted to embark on. I spent the first couple of days, feeling sorry for myself, having my own “pity party”, thinking just how unfair life was. I kept thinking I was much too young to be going through this, and asking the infamous question of “why?”. Why this? Why now? Why me? The list goes on and on.
I quickly realized I could sit at home, or stay in bed all day and feel extremely sorry for myself and my current situation. But, no matter how depressed I was, it was not going to change the facts and I was still going to have to go through the long treatment process. My other option was to laugh at the situation and learn from it. The first couple of days, I chose the former. I stayed in bed, thinking that I could sleep the next couple of months of my life away. Quickly I realized that was not a healthy way to handle the situation. I then worked hard every day to find something about my situation to laugh about.
When something changed or didn’t go according to plan, instead of getting upset about it, I learned to laugh about it. I honestly believe that it is through the power of laughter that I have been able to endure all that I have been through. Still to this day, I laugh at the absurdity of all that I have been through, joking that it is just my luck that I have been through all that I have.
Just the other day, I was completely blind-sided and received some devastating news regarding my current health issues and situation. While in the moment, it took everything within me, not to burst into tears in the doctor’s office. Since I have had a couple of days to process the news and reevaluate my current situation, I have been given the opportunity to take everything that I have learned about the power of laughter and try to find ways to apply it to my own life, and my current situation. While it hasn’t been the easiest to find the humor in the situation, or to even find something to laugh about; I have noticed a change in my demeanor and overall mood by looking for something to laugh about.
For example, for one of my treatments I had to make a daily trip to the hospital. While there I noticed the other patients, who were there for the same treatment that I was. Initially, I was not thrilled to be there, especially when I observed that all the other patients where two to three times my age! I felt so out of place. One day, I walked into the hospital and there was a new nurse there for training, she took one look at me and said, “You are much too young to be here!”. I laughed and told her that I felt a little out of place! It was through this experience that I made friends with some of the other patients and learned that even though I was “too young” to be going to the hospital every day, I made a joke about it and began to look forward to my daily treatments.
I am still amazed at how powerful of an impact laughter can have on any given situation. Whether it is something minor such as an awkward moment in public or something more serious, such as health problems, laughter can help you get through it. There is such power in laughter, I know this because I have seen this to be true in my own life. There is power in laughter which I chose to harness and use to my advantage to work through an especially trying time in my own life.
Everyone goes through hard and difficult times, it is a part of life. It is what we do during these times that define who we are. Because hard times will come, it is important to know how to get through them. I believe it is important to feel all the emotions that you might experience, but it is equally important to find something to laugh about to help you get through.
So, my challenge to you is to learn to laugh through the hard times, laugh through the happy times. Always find a reason to laugh, as there is a profound power to be harnessed through laughter. Try to find different ways in which to view each situation in which you find yourself. Whether you find yourself in a hard, scary, funny or happy time, there is always going to be another way to view the situation than how it appears on the surface. Challenge yourself to find the different views so that you can find ways to laugh when the situation deems it appropriate, and harness the power of laughter. I promise that as you do so, you will be happier and have more joy in your life.
Depending on the situation, finding something to laugh about might seem impossible or inappropriate. During these times, find an outside source—comedy, entertainment, etc. that can help you to escape and find joy for even a few moments. As you do so, not only will your outlook and perspective of your current situation change, but your overall demeanor and health will improve as well. Challenge yourself to find something to laugh about and see how your attitude and situation improves with the power of laughter being implemented into your daily life.
I promise that there is power in laughter, that if we only try to find that power and harness it in our own lives, we will benefit from it. Learning to find something to laugh about takes time and practice, but it is possible if you are determined enough to try. Once you have learned the power of laughter and how to harness it for your situation, you’ll have a fresh new perspective on life and every situation that you are currently in. Give it a try, I dare you!
Author: Ashley Christensen
White, Rob. “The Power of a Good Laugh.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 20 June 2014, www.huffpost.com/entry/happiness-tips_b_5496790.
“Lighten Up: The Healing Power of Laughter.” The Chopra Center, 27 Oct. 2016, chopra.com/articles/lighten-up-the-healing-power-of-laughter.
Gaiam. “7 Health Benefits of Laughter.” Gaiam, www.gaiam.com/blogs/discover/7-health-benefits-of-laughter.“The Science of Laughter.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/200011/the-science-laughter.