A good sense of humour is one of the most important tools in your self-care kit. In fact, studies show that laughter affects both your body and your mind. Laughter is also readily available, free, has no side effects, and you don’t have to worry about overdosing. Moreover, it’s good for everyone around you too. And laughter can relieve stress, boost your immune system and even change your perspective on things. Stress relief. Laughter lowers your blood pressure and pulse rate and helps your muscles to relax. It counteracts your body’s stress response by lowering the stress hormones cortisol, epinephrine, adrenaline and dopamine. In addition, it releases “happy chemicals” in your brain, leaving you with a sense of well-being or even euphoria. Increased immunity. Laughter increases the number of antibody-producing cells and enhances the effectiveness of killer T-cells. This means a stronger immune system, as well as fewer physical effects and immune suppression caused by stress. Pain relief.
Laughter increases the production of natural painkillers, thereby improving our tolerance to pain. Muscle relaxation. Laughter exercises the diaphragm, contracts the abs and even works out the shoulders, leaving muscles more relaxed afterwards. It even provides a good workout for the heart. According to the late Dr Laurence Peter, author of The Peter Principle, the bigger the laugh, the lower the tension and the more long-lasting the relief. Perspective. Humour gives us an entirely different perspective on our problems. By viewing a problem a little more light-heartedly, it becomes a challenge instead of a threat, and your body won’t react with a stress response. This gives us a sense of mastery and control over our environment, which helps us cope with adversity. Distraction. Laughter diverts our attention away from our negative feelings like guilt, anger, and stress. Improved social interaction. Laughter is contagious. If you laugh, people laugh with you, even if they don’t always know what you’re laughing about. It connects us to those around us, and can even be used to ease interpersonal tension – crack a joke during your next heated argument and see the tension melt away. back to top
How to lighten up
Raise your laughter level with the following strategies:
Surround yourself with humour. Watch a funny movie, read a humorous book or a comic, or listen to your favourite stand-up comedian. When you’re stressed at work, take ten minutes to read jokes on the Internet or listen to something silly on your iPod. Laugh with a friend or colleague. People tend to laugh more in social situations, so share the funnies with a friend. It will strengthen your relationship and the contagious effects of laughter may mean you’ll laugh more than you otherwise would have. Look for humour in everyday life. Why wait to “look back on it and laugh”? Find the humour in every situation, even the stressful and unpleasant ones, and enjoy a good giggle now. Laugh at yourself. Poke fun at your own behaviour and idiosyncrasies. As the saying goes, “Laugh at yourself and the world laughs with you.” Comedian Bill Cosby once said, “If you can laugh at it, you can survive it”. With the improved immune system, reduce stressed, better coping ability and positive attitude that comes with laughter, you can survive almost anything too.