Laughter Therapy: Harness the Emotional Benefits of Laughter
Someone says something that makes you smile. Before you know it, that smile has turned into a laugh. Soon you are laughing so hard that your face starts to turn red and you can’t catch your breath. But you still can’t stop laughing. Chances are that you’re happy. Even if you were in a foul mood just minutes ago, the sheer act of laughing has transformed your mood into a positive one. After that laugh, there may just be a spring in your step for the rest of the day.
What changed? You laughed. Researchers have spent years trying to unravel the benefits of laughter, and time and time again the results seem to be the same. Laughter improves your mood. It is an expression of positive emotions — happiness, surprise, joy, amusement. Laughter can reduce stress, anxiety and depression by relaxing you enough to be able to let your guard down and just enjoy the moment.
A Healthy Dose
Having a good sense of humor guarantees a healthy dose of laughter in your life. Researchers now believe that laughter can improve your psychological and physical health as much as feeling in control of your life does, be it related to work, the future or even relationships.
And then, the humor you enjoy is very personal. The type of humor you are exposed to will also influence how much it will make you laugh. If you go for slapstick humor, then The Three Stooges can probably put you in stitches, while someone who goes for a long joke with a great punch line at the end might not be so taken. British comedy is another type of specialized humor that can send some into fits of laughter, but again it is a type to which one must be inclined in order to make them laugh.
Laughter as Therapy
Studies have shown that people who laugh a lot are less inclined to dwell on the everyday negative events in their lives, that otherwise might bring them down. Of course, it is necessary to have a bit of moderation in life and not laugh everything off. Some not so funny events in life require attention as well, such money issues and personal health. You may trip over a chair, remaining unharmed, and can draw guffaws from everyone in the room, but if you’ve hurt yourself in the process, those laughs need to die down so that you can attend to your injury.
The reason, he thinks, is that cheerful people may pay less attention to threats to their physical and psychological well-being. “In the short term, I think it is helpful to be optimistic about a particular illness,” says Friedman. But the same good-natured attitude that helps us laugh off the threat of illness (“I’m going to be just fine”) may work against us when we’re presented with the opportunity to eat unhealthy foods or light up a cigarette.
Why It’s Good to Laugh
So, what are some of the specific benefits of laughter? Here are just a few:
- It relaxes your whole body
- It triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals
- It burns calories — about 40 calories for every 10 to 15 minutes of laughing
- It diffuses anger and other negative emotions.
Stress relief is probably the best benefit you can reap from having a good sense of humor that makes you, and others around you laugh. Stress has been shown to cause a varieties of maladies in the human body, so finding a way to release your stress is very healthy.
So, while eating right and exercising are common recommendations for improving your emotional health, there other, easier ways to get an immediate boost, like laughing. As they say, laugh and the world laughs with you.