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Psychological benefits of laughter

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Charles Dickens wrote, “”There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.” The sound of roaring laughter is far more contagious than any infectious illness. When laughter is shared, it creates a bond among persons and increases happiness and intimacy.{{more}} Laughter also triggers healthy physical changes in the body. Humour and laughter have been found to strengthen your immune system, boost your energy, reduce pain, and protect you from the damaging effects of stress. Best of all, laughter is a priceless medicine which is fun, free, easy to use and can be used at any time forever.

Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humour lightens your burdens, inspires hopes, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert.

How does laughter improve your health?

o Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.

o Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.

o Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.

o Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

The link between laughter and mental health

o Laughter dissolves distressing emotions. You can’t feel anxious, angry, or sad when you’re laughing.

o Laughter helps you relax and recharge. It reduces stress and increases energy, enabling you to stay focused and accomplish more.

o Humour shifts perspective, allowing you to see situations in a more realistic, less threatening light.

o A humorous perspective creates psychological distance, which can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Laughter is our natural right. Babies learn and begin smiling within the first weeks of life and laugh loudly in months. Don’t you just enjoy the laughter of children… it is so very contagious; you can’t help but join in the laughter.

I would like to encourage everyone to set aside special times to seek out humour and laughter. Make the effort just as you will make the effort to exercise or do any other activity.

Here are some ways to start:

o Smile. Smiling is the beginning of laughter. When you look at someone or see something even mildly pleasing, practise smiling.

o Count your blessings. Literally make a list. The simple act of considering the good things in your life will distance you from negative thoughts that act as a barrier to humour and laughter.

o When you hear laughter, move toward it. Sometimes humour and laughter are private, a shared joke among a small group, but usually not. More often, people are very happy to share something funny because it gives them an opportunity to laugh again and feed off the humour you find in it. When you hear laughter, seek it out and ask, “What’s the joke?”

o Spend time with fun, playful people. These are people who laugh easily – both at themselves and at life experiences ­– and who routinely find the humour in everyday events.

o Bring humour into conversations. Ask persons to share their last joke. What’s the funniest thing you have heard or seen today or in the past few days… WEN LASS YO LAFF!!!!!

Dr Miller is Health Psychologist at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital.

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