The Benefits of Laughter

At a motivational seminar three women are asked to come up to the stage.

They are all asked, “When you are in your casket and friends and family are mourning, what would you like to hear them say about you?

Women laughing
Women laughing

The first woman says, “I would like to hear them say that I was a great wife and the best doctor in my field.”

The second woman says, “I would like to hear that I was a wonderful mother and school teacher who made a huge difference in children’s lives.”

The last woman replies, “I would like to hear them say…… LOOK!!! SHE’S MOVING!!!!!”

That’s a joke, of course, that you may or may not find funny. Humor is completely subjective. What makes me laugh might not make you laugh. Whatever causes you to smile, chuckle or burst out laughing, not only feels good, but it is actually good for you.

There are a few friends that I can count on for a good belly laugh or two when we get together or talk on the phone. Inevitably one of us says something that makes us roar with laughter and brings tears streaming down our faces. My favorite part is when we finally manage to collect ourselves and get on with the conversation, that feeling erupts again and quickly becomes contagious. Then the hysterics begin once more. These rich moments make everything seem lighter and more manageable. I love these women for their friendship, for “getting it” and connecting in this intimate and sometimes outrageous way.

Besides the joy and bonding that laughter evokes, research repeatedly shows that humor and laughter powerfully impacts your physical and psychological well-being. Some of the benefits include:

  • strengthens the immune system and healing powers
  • releases endorphins (feel good chemicals)
  • increases blood flow to the heart
  • relaxes muscles
  • lowers blood pressure, especially in women
  • improves the body’s ability to use oxygen
  • increases energy level and sense of well-being
  • improves problem solving abilities
  • decreases stress, pain, anxiety and anger
  • heightens sense of optimism and resilience

WOW! Even after the laughter subsides those beautiful endorphins continue to do their job and allow you to feel more positive and able to handle life’s challenges.

We are all wired for laughter, along with all the other complicated emotions we feel. Babies begin smiling a few weeks after birth and within a few months they are laughing out loud. Even if you did not grow up in a family where laughter and fun were routine, it is never too late to cultivate a sense of humor and integrate it into your everyday life.

Some tips on cultivating laughter and humor

  1. Observe a baby. Check out its natural rhythm for laughter when basic needs are handled.
  2. Whenever possible surround yourself with people who are playful and make you feel good. Minimize contact with people who consistently bring you down.
  3. Plan fun activities or games. Look for the humor in your life, rather than getting saddled by the struggles.
  4. Watch funny movies or television shows. There is a plethora of opportunity in the entertainment world to find sources for laughter.
  5. Read humorous books, magazine, newspaper columns or websites.

If necessary, “fake it until you make it.” Research shows that mimicking smiling or laughter yields many of the same benefits of authentic laughter. Interestingly, when you fake laughter it often leads to the real things. Developing the capacity to laugh, play and have fun not only makes life more pleasurable, but also profoundly improves our lives physically, emotionally and socially. I say let’s do more of it – together!

How do you plan to bring more laughter into your life?

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One Response to The Benefits of Laughter

  1. These are great suggestions! I think there are times in our lives when laughter comes more easily than others. During challenging times, everything is hard, serious and down right not funny! So making an extra special effort to find humor in your day will pay off. Even if it is just laughing that your teenager burped – rather than scolding him! They laugh thinking they have got away with something and you have the pleasure of all smiling together!

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