What common human activity relaxes tense muscles, reduces blood pressure and heart rate, exercises the muscles of the face, diaphragm and abdomen, boosts the immune system, and causes the body to release pain-fighting hormones?
The answer: laughter. Sound impressive?
And those just the physical benefits. Laughter also helps you get some emotional distance from a distressing situation and see the humor in it.
- Researchers have shown that laughter increases relaxation. Muscle tension remains low for up to 45 minutes after a session of vigorous laughter. Real belly laughter Can relax the muscles more than a vigorous massage.
- If you haven’t exercised your humor muscles lately you may benefit from these tips on getting them in shape:
- Find things that make you laugh and do them. See a funny movie, read a funny book memorize a joke and tell it to friends.
- The next time you’re in a distressing situation, mentally put yourself in the shoes of your favorite comedian. Humor depends on being able to see the humor where others see only aggravation. It’s the difference between tragedy and comedy.
- Allow a feeling of playfulness to creep into your life. Let your mind be open to silly and uncensored thoughts. What if everyone came to work wearing Groucho Marx glasses and a fake moustache?
- Amuse yourself by indulging in humorous exaggeration. Stuck in traffic? Think of cobwebs forming your car and the next, continental drift passing you by, snails overtaking you on the shoulder.
- Share cartoons, jokes and other funny material at work. Put cartoons up on the bulletin board. By helping others reduce stress you make your own job easier. And people will just be more relaxed around you if they know you have a sense of humor.
- Get in the habit of laughing at life’s contradictions. You can bet your Groucho Marx glasses you’ll never run out of material.
- Finally, practice laughing are yourself. You just can’t help becoming more accepting of your own shortcomings, and that’s sure-fire stress-buster.
Keep it light
People will feel safe and comfortable around you if they know you can laugh-but not if you laugh at them. Humor that is cruel or sarcastic breeds a negative attitude in both the humorist and the audience. Stay on the light side. Life is funny enough without resorting to vicious humor
Laughter’s Effects on the Body
In the last few decades, researchers have studied laughter’s effects on the body and turned up some potentially interesting information on how it affects us:
Blood flow. Researchers at the University of Maryland studied the effects on blood vessels when people were shown either comedies or dramas. After the screening, the blood vessels of the group who watched the comedy behaved normally — expanding and contracting easily. But the blood vessels in people who watched the drama tended to tense up, restricting blood flow.
Immune response. Increased stress is associated with decreased immune system response, says Pro vine. Some studies have shown that the ability to use humor may raise the level of infection-fighting antibodies in the body and boost the levels of immune cells, as well.
Blood sugar levels. One study of 19 people with diabetes looked at the effects of laughter on blood sugar levels. After eating, the group attended a tedious lecture. On the next day, the group ate the same meal and then watched a comedy. After the comedy, the group had lower blood sugar levels than they did after the lecture.
Relaxation and sleep. The focus on the benefits of laughter really began with Normal Cousin’s memoir, Anatomy of an Illness. Cousins, who was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, a painful spine condition, found that a diet of comedies, like Marx Brothers films and episodes of Candid Camera, helped him feel better. He said that ten minutes of laughter allowed him two hours of pain-free sleep.
Rx for laughter
The next time you’re looking for an easy way to relieve stress in your life, try a dose of laughter. You can get it without a prescription.