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The Health Benefits of Laughter
From comedy nights to laughter yoga sessions – there’s a reason we all seek out a good laugh, whether that’s consciously or not. Our natural built-in response to humour has many powerful benefits, both physically and mentally, that you may have never considered before.
The health benefits of laughter are no joke. But when it comes to harnessing a powerful medicine that can treat a number of things, who would have thought that something we do multiple times daily without even thinking about it could actually be the key?
Much research has been done into the effects of laughter on our health. The obvious benefits have been observed since the study of psychology began; laughter typically occurs in happy situations, which releases our happy hormones (endorphins) and indicates that the one laughing is experiencing a good mood. In 1964, Mary Poppins’ Uncle Albert sang of his love for laughter in ‘I Love to Laugh’:
‘The more you laugh,
the more you fill with glee,
and the more the glee,
the more we're a merrier we!’.
But what about the lesser-known benefits of laughter that most people have never even heard of, let alone considered? There’s a reason that things such as laughter yoga have grown in popularity in recent years. Some of the following benefits might help to explain why…
Laughter boosts the immune system
Yep, you read that right. The act of laughing decreases stress hormones, which in turn increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies. So, as well as reducing stress, laughing can have an effect on the way your body reacts to disease.
Laughter burns calories
By no means do we suggest replacing the gym for comedy gigs every night if you’re trying to lose weight. However, one recent study did find that laughing for between 10-15 minutes every day can burn up to 40 calories. Over the course of the week, this adds up to 280 calories. All in all, it could be enough to lose between three and four pounds in a year. That’s not a figure to be laughed at!
Laughing is a workout
You may have experienced it before – you’ve laughed so much that your belly has started to hurt. Almost a burning sensation, a similar one to if you’ve been doing sit ups. That’s because laughter exercises the diaphragm, contracting the abdominal muscles. It also raises your heart rate, giving the vital organ a good workout. American psychologist William Fry didn’t assign it the moniker ‘internal jogging’ for nothing!
Laughter builds relationships
You’ve definitely heard this before – laughter is contagious. Or, ‘laugh and the world laughs with you’. Laughter connects us with others, bringing us closer and having a positive impact on our social lives. So, if you bring more of it into your life, you can most likely help others around you to laugh more, in turn building and solidifying relationships.
So, there’s clearly many health benefits to laughing. But how can we get more of it in our lives? Firstly, surrounding ourselves with positive individuals is a great place to start. One study showed that we’re 30 times more likely to laugh with someone than when we’re on our own. The social lubricant that is laughter can truly increase bonds and feeling of intimacy between individuals. But that doesn’t mean to say that laughing with people is the only way to go about getting more in your life. Most people view laughter as primarily a social act, but this unfortunate misconception – while true to an extent – doesn’t take into consideration that it’s perfectly possible, and beneficial, to laugh while on your own as well!
If you want to laugh on your own, try surrounding yourself with humour. In order to do this, you might need to figure out your sense of humour first (if you don’t know it already). But we can think of worse experiments to conduct! Try watching clips of comedians, comedy films, YouTube videos or anything that has an element of comedy to it to begin working out what really tickles you. Once you’ve revealed that top layer, there’s a whole wealth of humour out there waiting for you to discover it!
If all else fails, you could always try and find your nearest laughter yoga group. What have you got to lose? Nothing! What have you got to gain? A lot, it would seem!
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