The Happiness Connection  

The healing power of laughter

A healthy laugh

This weekend I had the chance to catch up with an old friend I hadn’t talked to for a while. When I got off the phone, I noticed I was smiling broadly. It took me a moment to realize our conversation sparked a lot of laughter, and I was still feeling the effect.

Research shows laughter is a powerful medicine for physical, mental and social health. It has an amazing ability to bring balance to your body, mind and soul.

This is a topic I’ve written about before, but in these tricky times, I think it’s worth a revisit.

Physical health benefits of laughter

Laughter has a positive effect on both your immune system and your heart. It also burns calories. OK, it’s not like going to the gym, but it can make a difference if you do it often enough. Ten to 15 minutes of laughter burns approximately 40 calories, which can result in dropping three or four pounds over the course of a year.

Another benefit is it relaxes your body by releasing tension. Better yet, it stays in that state for up to 45 minutes. That explains why I was feeling so good even though my conversation had finished.

Mental health benefits of laughter

Studies link laughter to an increase in resilience, hopefulness and joy. When you laugh, endorphins are released by the brain. These are your natural feel-good chemicals. Not only do they boost your mood, they can also temporarily reduce pain.

Social health benefits of laughter

Shared laughter helps heal resentment, disagreements and frustrations and encourages forgiveness. Its ability to strengthen social connections means it boosts happiness.

Children laugh hundreds of times a day. This is another one of those traits that seems to decline as we reach adulthood. Fortunately, that doesn’t have to be the case. One of the best things you can do for your mental, physical and social health is to consciously seek out humour.

That brings me to the elephant in the room. If you tend not to laugh easily, where do you find enough amusement to inspire a belly laugh? It turns out laughter is a lot like smiling—fake it till you make it.

Humour may not naturally appear in your life, but that doesn’t mean you can’t seek it out. Approach it like any other habit or behaviour you want to incorporate into your life. It can be found in pretty much every situation if you look for it.

Start by smiling as often as possible. Instead of staring at your phone, smile at people you pass or interact with. It doesn’t matter if you know them. It doesn’t even matter if your smile is sincere. I wrote about the research of fake smiling in my 2016 column Smiling Makes You Super.

It turns out fake laughter has a similar effect. Find a private space and pretend to have a deep belly laugh. Fake chuckles often lead to real laughter as it seems like such a bizarre thing to do. Try doing this activity with a friend for even more hilarity.

When you notice someone laughing, move towards them. Most people are happy to share something humorous. Every time you find something that causes you to chuckle or guffaw, share it.

Because laughter is contagious, spend time with people who laugh easily. They’ll help you learn to laugh at both yourself and the absurdities of life. Don’t worry if you don’t think you’re a funny person. You can benefit as much from being an audience member as the comedian.

Try a laughter yoga class, which incorporates movement and breathing exercises to promote deliberate laughter.

The importance of humour and laughter in maintaining optimal mental, physical and social health cannot be overstated. There’s a lot of anxiety inducing things going on in the world today.

Rather than giving into negative emotions, battle them with a good belly laugh.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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