You may agree that laughter feels good, and most of us have heard, or even spouted the old saying: "laughter is the best medicine", but what can laughter actually do for us? Here's a list of 10 benefits of laughter that may surprise you. 1. It releases natural anti-depressants and stress relievers Laughter has been clinically proven to lower stress hormones (such as cortisol and adrenaline) while releasing the "Happy hormones" - dopamine, oxytocin, seratonin and endorphins. It shifts our autonomic nervous system from "fight or flight mode" into our "rest and digest mode", allowing us to come into a natural, relaxed state away from stress, anxiety, worry and pain.
2. It builds a healthy, positive mind.
When we feel positive, we think positive. Our mind-body connection is unbreakable, and through choosing to laugh, we are choosing to influence our body and in turn, our mind too. Negative thoughts release chemicals that can affect your body by decreasing your immune function and by bringing more stress into your system, these thoughts and the chemicals released (which influence our mood), can also keep us stuck in a negative loop or downward spiral. On the flip side, positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses. The release of dopamine through laughter can help us to become addicted to the habits of laughter and feeling positive, further encouraging our minds to reinforce and repeat them.
Laughter also lowers our inhibitions and allows us to gain a big-picture perspective, helping us to feel more carefree, less attached to outcomes and more emotionally resilient. In laughing, we are also activating the right side of our brain, which helps us to think more openly and creatively.
3. It's a free workout that can be done anywhere, any time, without any equipment. Laughter is an aerobic, pulmonary and cardiovascular workout. Laughs have been measured exiting our lungs at speeds up to seventy miles (112km) per hour, giving our respiratory system a huge work out. Usually work out to burn calories? Well, research conducted by Vanderbilt University Medical Centre revealed that laughing for 10-15 minutes burns between 10 and 40 calories... it's not much if you're on a weight-loss mission, but hey, it's a bonus side effect!
4. It massages your organs. When we laugh, our diaphragm (a muscle that separates our abdominal cavity from our chest cavity) convulses, pulls on our side muscles and shaking up our stomach and other vital organs. This internal massage leaves our organs invigorated, juicy, pumped-up and alert.
5. It improves blood circulation & can lower blood pressure. Scientists at the University of Maryland in Baltimore showed funny videos to participants who were tested 160 times before watching, while watching and also after. They findings showed that when the participants laughed, the blood flow increased through their body by 22%. During laughter, our blood pressure is actually raised, but after a hearty laugh, the resting rate is significantly lower.
6. It can be used to shift patterns of thought & behaviour. Laughter helps us to by-pass the critical faculty, which is like the gateway to our subconscious mind (where our survival instincts and limiting beliefs are created and stored). In laughing and holding a particular thought in our mind, we can change the way we think and feel about it, and break habits of thought, feeling and behaviour by creating a new experience.
7. It can boost immune system function, helping your body fight disease. Scientists at Loma Linda Medical Centre, Indiana State University and the National Cancer Centre in California found that the immune system is boosted by as much as 40% after laughter. While one test group watched a funny video, another group watched a tourist film. When the films were over, researchers took samples of the immune cells, and mixed them with cancer cells to see how effectively they attacked the disease. The results showed that the participants who'd laughed out loud had significantly healthier immune systems, allowing them to better fight infections & diseases.
8. It brings you into the present moment
By relieving us of our anxious anticipations, “what if” worries, to-do lists, regrets and fears, laughter leaves us in the moment, which many people find extremely peaceful, relieving and calming. We cannot create from the past or from the future, and being present enables us to actively choose and create from the only moment of power we ever have - the power of NOW.
9. It raises your pain threshold
Serotonin and endorphins (chemicals released during laughter) both play a major roles in our perception of pain, and are often touted as "natural pain killers". A study by Oxford University, which involved six separate tests, found that participants who watched funny videos had a heightened pain threshold after the videos (and laughing), while the control group (who watched documentaries or informative videos) had no change in their pain threshold.
10. It can help us to strengthen relationships and social bonds Laughing with someone is fun and ties us together, even if the other person is a total stranger. Laughing at someone else often results in the opposite - negative emotions and feelings of separation and for the subject, often feelings of isolation and rejection. “For people who are laughing together, shared laughter signals that they see the world in the same way, and it momentarily boosts their sense of connection,” says social psychologist Sara Algoe, co-author of a study that tested whether shared laughter between strangers improved feelings of connection. As other studies had, this study showed that the amount of shared laughter between two people had a direct correlation to the participants’ sense of similarity to their partner - and that this, in turn, increased how much participants liked their partner and wanted to affiliate with them. In a previous study by Sara Algoe and research partner Laura Kurtz, results showed that shared laughter was uniquely linked to people’s overall evaluations of quality, closeness, and social support in their relationships. So it’s actually sharing a laugh—not just laughing in general—that benefits our relationships the most.
It's worth mentioning that while some benefits are instantaneous, the benefits of laughter also remain in the body for a significant time after the laughter occurs.
So when’s the last time you had a good chuckle? If you’ve never tried laughter yoga or laughter wellness before, YOU’RE MISSING OUT! I'd love to know what you learned here AND to share in a laugh with you - details on couple of ways we can do that are below! CONNECT WITH ME
Laugh with Me Live I currently run Live online Laughter Wellness sessions monthly via Zoom, check out the details and register for your spot here.
You can also check out my website for more on me, my coaching and other ways to work and play together https://biancaspears.com