One of the best feelings in the world is a deep-rooted belly laugh shared with your family and friends. Smiling and laughing helps break the ice in awkward settings, brings people together and establishes amazing new connections. Everything from a slight giggle to a side-splitting guffaw can change the atmosphere from chilly unfamiliarity to a warm family-like atmosphere.
Celebrated since 1998, World Laughter Day is an annual event to raise awareness about laughter and its many healing benefits. The day also promotes community groups across the world, commonly called Laughter Clubs, who regularly practice intentional laughing that helps improve overall well-being.
Research has shown that the health benefits of laughter are far-ranging. Studies say that laughter can help relieve pain, bring greater happiness, and even increase immunity.
So how exactly does laughter benefit us?
A hearty laugh can connect us with others. Just as with smiling and kindness, most people find that laughter is contagious. Has it ever happened that you found something hilarious, while your friends just laughed at you laughing so hard? You’ve unknowingly started a laugh riot, and you’re all happier for it.
Laughter reduces the level of stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline), and dopamine, and increases the level of health-enhancing hormones, like endorphins. This means a stronger immune system, as well as fewer physical effects of stress. A good belly laugh exercises the diaphragm, contracts the abdominal muscles, and even works out the shoulders, leaving muscles more relaxed thereafter. It even provides a good workout for the heart.
It also often acts as a distraction and brings the focus away from anger, guilt, stress, and negative emotions in a more beneficial way than other distractions. Humour, when used as a coping mechanism to deal with stress, can give us a more lighthearted perspective and help us view events as challenges instead of threats, keeping us more positive.
So where should you go to get a good laugh?
Socialize: Going to a movie or a comedy club with friends is a great way to get more laughter in your life. The contagious effects of laughter may mean you’ll laugh more than you otherwise would have during the show, plus you’ll have jokes to discuss at later times. Having friends over for a party or game night is also a great setup for laughter and other good feelings. Making time for this kind of fun is as important as any other habit you keep in your life to enhance your well-being.
Fake it until you make it: The body can’t distinguish between ‘fake’ laughter that you start on purpose and ‘real’ laughter that comes from true humour. The physical benefits are exactly the same, and laughing usually leads to happiness anyway. So smile more and fake a laugh; you’ll still achieve positive effects, and the fake merriment may eventually lead to real smiles and laughter.
Media: There’s no shortage of laughter opportunities from entertainment, both at the theatre as well as at home with streaming movies and television comedies. Watching truly hilarious movies and shows is an easy way to get laughter into your life whenever you need it.
Apart from laughter, there are some other key strategies that we can all incorporate in our daily lives to help reduce stress and improve our level of happiness.
- Exercise: Regular exercise can help lower stress and anxiety by releasing endorphins and improving your sleep and self-image.
- Reduce Your Caffeine Intake: High quantities of caffeine can increase stress and anxiety.
- Write It Down: Keeping a journal can give you an objective and unbiased perspective on the positives and negatives in life, and can help you stay optimistic.
- Spend Time with Friends and Family: Having strong social ties may help you get through stressful times and lower your risk of anxiety.
- Learn to Say No: Try not to take on more than you can handle. Saying no is one way to control your stressors.
- Learn to Avoid Procrastination: Prioritize what needs to get done and make time for it. Staying on top of your to-do list can help ward off procrastination-related stress.
- Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness describes practices that anchor you to the present moment. Mindfulness practices can help lower symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Deep Breathing: There are several types of deep breathing exercises, including diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, and paced respiration. This helps slow your heart rate, allowing you to feel more peaceful.
Practicing these 8 simple techniques and incorporating them into your daily routine can bring about subtle changes in how you feel in the present, as well as in the long run.
In today’s fast-paced life where everyone wants to get ahead, stress becomes a byproduct of our everyday lives. Stress is the biggest enemy to our happiness, good health and the contentment we’re all in search of. Everybody wants to feel unburdened and stress-free, and we can start trying to achieve this by adopting a more humorous attitude towards life. Laughter is a great stress management strategy because it’s free, convenient, and beneficial in many ways. It’s a tool many may want to be equipped with. So go out there and indulge yourself in a hearty laugh!
Dr. Bindoo Jadhav
K J Somaiya Hospital