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Laughter is the best medicine.
I am sure you have heard that one. Laughter can make you feel better. It can actually help you heal. Laughter reduces stress. A lot of laughter will help improve your immune system. And it certinaly works to improve your mood by increasing your happiness.
It probably seems obbvious to anyone who has had a good laugh after feeling bad. But laughter makes you feel better.
As obvious as it may seem, there have been many studies showing how much a little bit of laughter can improve our mood. There have been many studies to back this up.
Laughter is one of life's most amazing gifts.
- It vaporizes stress – lowering levels of cortisol and epinephrine.1
- It increases our pain threshold – watching just 15 minutes of comedy makes us 10% more resistant to pain.2
- It improves our immunity and fights off disease – watching 60 minutes of comedy increases the volume and activity of our immune cells.3
- Its mere anticipation immediately improves mood, reduces pain, and boosts our immune system. Yes, that's right – just anticipating future laughter increases endorphin levels by 27%, and human growth hormone levels by 87%.4
It does much more, like improving blood flow and memory, but what this post focuses on is the stress reduction and mood elevation.
Our biology often hijacks our body for its own purposes.
It makes us crave food when we're trying to diet. Biology may make us cheat on our spouse even though we love them. It may make us watch funny cat videos
when we should be working. It may even make us watch TV even though we should exercise.
I say the word, “make” very loosely. No one holds a gun to our head. Ultimately these are all our personal choices and we cannot truly blame biology. Perhaps it would be better to say that biology tempts us to do all these (and more) bad things.
Now it's our turn.
Laughter is a social tool. It exists to help us build relationships with other people. We like people who make us laugh, we like people who laugh at our jokes, and we like people who are laughing with us. Thank you biology – without my humor I probably wouldn't have gotten as many dates 😉
But now, let's make laughter a happiness tool.
Comedy movies and humor websites are extremely popular. Most of us actively seek out non-social laughter on a weekly basis. I often can't help but watch or read the funny things my friends share on facebook.
Okay. That's a first step. But now it's time to throw away our crutches.
Watching a 30-minute comedy show or browsing a humor website will net us, at best, a few minutes of laughter.
Instead of spending an hour to get 5-10 minutes of laughter … just laugh for 5-10 minutes.
Find a place where you can be alone. If you're alone right now, that's perfect. If not, keep this in mind for the next time you are.
Okay. Just laugh. Laughing on command is a skill. Luckily, it's extremely easy to learn.
Just pretend a friend said something funny, or recall the last time you had a good laugh and replicate the experience. Yes, our bodies designed laughter to be our response to something funny. But it doesn't have to be that way – we can break free from our biology.
Laughter is so powerful that there is no reason not to develop this skill.
The body cannot tell the difference between “fake” and “real” laughter. When I find myself a bit tired or sad, I laugh. Think it's weird?
Which do you think is “weirder”: releasing dopamine by laughing by yourself, or releasing dopamine by stroking yourself? If solo sex is socially acceptable, why isn't solo laughing? For reasons I'll explore in another post in this series, laughter is the better choice.
This isn't some crazy idea I dreamt up one day – there are dozens of laughter clubs throughout the world – clubs of people who get together and just spontaneously laugh.
If you want to be more happy, you should laugh more. The fastest way to laugh more is to just laugh.
I recommend creating a trigger – an emotional state, time of day, or environment cue after which you always laugh. If it's not a habit, it won't help you.
Here is a special treat: a 5 minute video of me just laughing. I'm a reserved introvert. If I can share my laughter with the world, surely you can share your laughter with an empty room.
- Facente, A. (2006). Humor in health care: Irreverent or invaluable?. Nursing, 36(4), 64hn6-64hn7.
- MacMillan, A. (2006). The boost before the belly laugh. Prevention, 58(8), 52.
Image Attribution: Laughter