The Joke’s On Us – Laughter Reduces Stress


The Healing Power of Laughter series Part 1 of 2

The Joke’s on Us – Laughter Reduces Stress

While working on the Happiness Series recently I came across a quotation that made me grin and gave me pause, causing me to consider the role of laughter and humour in stress relief – and in general mental health.

“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.” ~ George Burns

Woman smiling with great teeth on white backgroundAs with all humour, there is at least a hint of truth in everything that makes us laugh and there are certainly times when family becomes a stressor for us all. Finding ways to laugh at those times is a great way to relieve stress and having a good sense of humour adds greatly to a positive frame of mind and good mental health in general. In fact, it has always been my belief that humour has wonderful healing power, enabling us to put the trouble in our lives into better perspective so that we do not take ourselves or our lives too seriously. Sometimes when life seems the darkest, laughter in the absurdity is exactly what we need.

Laughter is the best medicine

I am gratified to learn that recent studies are beginning to back me up in this belief. As a result, this will be the first in a short series of posts about the healing power of humour, the new research that is being done into the subject, and a few tips to help you laugh your way through problems that once seemed insurmountable.

As illustrated in this article from the Mayo Clinic website, laughter has both short-term and long-term positive effects on the body and the psyche. Perhaps the most compelling data from the latest research is the fact that a good belly laugh actually generates physical changes within the body; powerful changes that create a sense of well being which can greatly reduce both physical stress and emotional stress. From improved blood flow and increase oxygen flow to the release of powerful healing endorphins, laughter is a great prescription for many of the things that ail us.

The short-term health benefits of laughter

A good, old-fashioned belly laugh has positive effects on the body:

  • Stimulate the heart, lungs, and muscles with increased oxygen and pleasure endorphins from the brain.
  • Forces stress levels to peak and then come down with increased heart rate and blood flow, leading to feelings of relaxation.
  • Increased circulation to the muscles, reducing the physical symptoms of stress.

In the short term, laughter is an effective stress relief tool, yet it also has powerful long-term effects which can no longer be denied.

The long-term benefits of laughter

  • Thinking positively is healthier than thinking negatively, with long-term effects on the body. A positive mindset will actually improve the self-healing power of the body through the release of neuropeptides, small protein-like molecules which help to reduce stress and may also help the body battle more serious illnesses.
  • Laughter releases natural pain killers within the body and may also reduce the “pain-spasm cycle” which is common in muscular disorders.
  • Laughter is a great coping mechanism in difficult, stressful situations. It also helps to build connections with others.

The physical changes which take place in the body when we laugh are just the beginning of the positive effects of laughter for stress reduction. Laughing also helps to change our state-of-mind, improving our immediate response to stressful situations as well as improving our outlook for the future; not the least of which is the sense of satisfaction one feels from dealing with stress rather than giving in to it.

In the next post in this series on Humour and Stress I’ll try to illustrate the positive mental effects of humour and make the case that we should all incorporate humour into our lives as an effective coping tool. Following that, I’ll offer tips for adding humour and laughter to your life in an effort to enhance the health of your mind, body, and spirit.

The good news is – it is possible to develop and enhance your sense of humour, bringing more laughter into your life. Stay tuned to this series for more on how to accomplish this. For more on changing from a negative to a positive mindset and dealing with stress, you might want to read my book, “Just Give your Head a Shake.”

If you are struggling with your own journey of happiness and stress relief, and would like help finding or staying on the road you would like to follow, get in touch with me today.

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