Lighten Your Load With Laughter, For Your Health

Lighten Your Load With Laughter, For Your Health

It’s easy to get serious in our lives, given all that is unfolding in the world. The good news? There is mounting evidence that a good sense of humor, including laughing out loud, is good for us.

A good sense of humor

Laughter is a physical (and thus visible) expression of a sense of humor—an involuntary physical behavior, usually including both movement and sound, in response to some inner or outer stimulus. Laughter can be defensive, or connective; the ability to distinguish the difference is part of a developed sense of humor.

We often feel different, and usually better, when laughing. This is in part because real physical changes are occurring; laughing has been shown to

  • reduce stress
  • relieve tension
  • activate our organs

We literally feel better! And this can lead to longer lasting and often subtler benefits such as

  • strengthened immune system
  • pain relief
  • positive mood
  • sense of well-being

It’s been shown that when we’re laughing with others, this shared experience enables us to feel empathy with each other; we tend to feel closer, warmer, and more connected. And for folks who’ve been experiencing depression or anxiety, laughter is an excellent addition to their mental health prescription: it can shift activity in the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, potentially supporting mood regulation and activating pleasure centers.

Embrace your inner clown

Psychiatrist Dr. Mark Etkin observes that “the positive impacts of laughter on brain neurochemistry is well known these days.” However, he adds that “too many people confuse seriousness with professionalism and put a lid on their sense of humor.”

Drawing on his psychoanalytic training, Etkin suggests that “higher-level defence mechanisms, humor for example, serve to reduce anxiety in a given situation … acknowledging, shifting, and transforming it in a way that brings pleasure and comfort to those present.”

We’re in this together

Laughter most often occurs in the company of others—it’s rarely a solo activity! This is evident in a movie theater screening a comedic film. Laughter can ripple through the crowd, and that sound of laughter tends to give us permission to laugh too.

In these moments we can achieve the “humor trifecta” when (1) the physiological impacts of laughter commence, (2) our emotional/psychological state shifts and our mood lifts, and (3) our social experience shifts as we experience connection in shared humor with others.

These are the moments when humor’s transformational potential is realized—in a flash, our bodies, minds, and hearts shift as we let go and open up.

Get laughing with these tips

  • Watch a comedy, with a friend.
  • Dance in your living room.
  • Notice children laughing.
  • Play games.
  • Throw caution to the wind and laugh out loud.
  • Imagine your tragedies as comedies.

By Carole Ames

Article copyright 2024 by Alive Publishing Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio:

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