What comes to mind when you think of ways to invest in your physical and mental well-being? The chances are that you think of practices such as spending time outside, going to the doctor and dentist regularly, getting enough sleep, engaging in physical activity, or eating meals that nourish your body. All of these things are important, and it's not that laughter can replace them, but what we know now is that it can have several different physical and mental health benefits. With that in mind, you might wonder what these benefits are and what you can do if you want to experience the benefits of laughter. Today, we will talk about the answers to these questions and what you can do if you need help.
What Can Laughing Do For Your Physical And Mental Health?
When you laugh, several different functions occur in your body. To start, it brings oxygen to mind and body. It may go without saying that this is beneficial. However, other processes also take place, such as releasing various hormones. What exactly does the research say about laughter's mental and physical health benefits? Here's some of what we know.
It may come as no surprise that laughter can boost your mood. You may have noticed that you feel better after a good laugh, and if that's the case, it makes sense. Laughter prompts the release of feel-good hormones called serotonin and dopamine, so it makes sense that laughing is affiliated with a better mood and the aforementioned lower scores of depression.
One study on individuals aged 65 and above found that laughter therapy improved sleep quality and decreased insomnia. The same study found that laughter can support cognition and lower depression scores.
Stress can be both mental and physical. Although some stress is inevitable, prolonged or severe stress can have extreme health detriments that range from a higher likelihood that you'll have a heart attack to an increased risk of getting into a car accident. Laughter lowers cortisol levels and is an excellent way to relieve stress.
Laughter supports your heart health, which is true in more ways than one. Studies indicate that it can lower blood pressure, increase blood flow, reduce stroke risk, and even decrease heart disease risk.
Would you believe that laughter can aid your threshold for pain? Research shows that this is true even with an individual's baseline threshold for pain taken into account. Experts suggest that this increased threshold for pain may be partly due to physical processes that occur in the body when you laugh.
Laughing with others gives you something to bond over, and of course, it creates good times to look back on. More than that, however, research shows that it can aid your sense of connection with other people. As the saying goes, it's also true that laughter is contagious. So, you might have a positive impact not just on yourself but on those around you, too.
These don't necessarily encompass all of the possible benefits. Alongside all the other positive impacts mentioned above, laughter may even boost immune functioning and support longevity. Additionally, many of us love to laugh. So, what can you do to get the benefits of laughter yourself?
How To Reap The Benefits Of Laughter
Some people smile or laugh more easily than others. With that in mind, you might be wondering how to induce laughter so that you can reap the benefits. Here are some ideas and tips to try.
Laughter yoga is a type of yoga that combines yoga breathing techniques with laughter exercises to bring more oxygen to the body and the mind. Breathing exercises and yoga have a wide variety of health benefits, which may be a bonus and an additional reason to try them. You may be able to find classes near you, join a laughter yoga club, some of which are free, or you might even find videos online that can help you get started.
Social support itself boasts several health benefits, similar to those affiliated with smiling and laughter. If you think about when you have laughed most throughout your life, the chances are that some of those memories might be with other people. Spending time with other people is a great way to laugh, and to make it happen, there are several different activities that you can try. For example, you might play a funny game or watch a favorite comedian together.
What if you have trouble finding people to spend time with? There are many reasons why this could be, like a recent move or a busy schedule. If you don't have people to spend time with right now and are looking for new people to add to your life, put yourself out there - whether it's via classes and meetups in your community, support groups, or something else.
It isn't uncommon for individuals in our society to overwork themselves or to face high-stress levels for other reasons. This can lead to physical tension, trouble sleeping, feelings of depression, anxiety symptoms, and other possible health detriments, especially if prolonged. When you feel pressured to get everything done, you may find that that takes up most of your mental space. Even time meant for relaxation could be filled with worry. This, of course, might mean that you don't laugh as much as you would otherwise.
Check-in with yourself and see if there is time you can allot to enjoyment and self-care. Consider adding space for something that'll make you laugh to your routine during this time. This could be a funny movie or book, the time above with friends, or even a funny podcast or song. The activity you choose doesn't have to be expensive. Regardless of the cost, you deserve to unwind, enjoy your time, and have a laugh.
Does faking it works when it comes to laughter? Can making yourself laugh when it doesn't come organically still provide you with the benefits of laughter? Although the research on simulated laughter is not extensive, experts note that the body does not know the difference between simulated and organic laughter. If you want to reap the benefits of laughter, you may still get them when you induce it artificially. Making yourself laugh might also lead to real laughter and stress relief, helping you feel better.
What If I Don't Feel Like Laughing?
What can you do if you don't feel like laughing or find that stress related to work and school, concerns in your interpersonal relationships, a low mood, or something else is getting in the way? If something is impacting your desire to laugh, to engage in activities that promote laughter, or is otherwise affecting your quality of life, a therapist may be able to help. To find a therapist, contact your health insurance company to see who they cover near you, conduct a web search for therapists in your area, utilize on-campus resources if you're a student at a college or university, ask your doctor for a referral, or try online therapy. Whether you work with a therapist remotely or in person, you deserve to reap the benefits of laughter and feel your best.
Online platforms make getting therapy more accessible in several different ways. First, online therapy is often regarded as a more affordable option. It also allows you to connect with a licensed therapist to practice from virtually anywhere with a reliable Internet connection. If you live in an area with few options for mental health support, want to cut the commute time out of your day, or may otherwise benefit from remote options, you can still get the care you need. In addition to being convenient and accessible, online therapy is proven by research to be an equally effective form of treatment for several different mental health concerns, including depression, anxiety, and more, when compared to face-to-face options.
If you're interested in online therapy, consider BetterHelp. When you join BetterHelp, you'll take a short questionnaire and be matched with a therapist who meets your needs. If the first professional you match with isn't the right fit, you can switch providers at any time, and you can also cancel services at any point if you need to.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What Are The Benefits Of Smiling And Laughing?
Smiling and laughing can support stress management, which is positive for physical and mental health. It can also make you feel happier and may encourage pain relief through the release of feel-good hormones and cortisol level reduction.
What Happens To Your Breathing When You Laugh?
When you laugh, it increases your oxygen levels. This supports the brain as well as other parts of the body. It can even boost your energy level. The boost of oxygen that occurs when you laugh may be responsible for some of the benefits of laughter.
How Do You Laugh?
If you want to laugh more, there are several things you can do, whether you're alone or with other people. If you want to promote laughter, you might read a funny book, listen to a comedic podcast, play a funny game with friends, listen to a funny song, or watch a comedy show, whether that's via television or a live event.