How to ease stress with laughter

How to ease stress with laughter

The busy and lightning-paced nature of modern life affects every one of us in some way. An unfortunate consequence of this is that every single person, at one time or another, is going to experience a period of great stress in their life.

Levels of stress can differ greatly, all the way from minor concerns about everyday matters to much more serious situations. But we all react to stress in different ways. Even the smallest thing can sometimes be enough to leave you feeling stressed-out, overwhelmed and unable to cope. This can seriously affect both your physical and mental health.

There are many ways to relieve or manage stress. The usual suspects are techniques like meditation, exercise, deep breathing, or other relaxing activities. In more serious cases, you might need a session with a therapist or a visit to a local help group.

There is one stress management technique, however, that sometimes gets overlooked, and this is laughter. There is some truth to the old saying that laughter is the best medicine!

There are many ways to introduce some more laughter into your life. Good options are meeting with friends, catching a live comedy show, or watching a funny movie. Some people find laughter so beneficial that they use laughter yoga to get their regular fix. It doesn’t really matter where or how you find it, just as long as it makes you laugh!

Laughter really is the best medicine

Here are a few ways in which laughing can relieve stress:

1. Full Body Relaxation

A good, hearty session of true, unadulterated laughter has been proven to release physical tension found within the body. This helps greatly in the process of relieving stress. As your muscles begin to relax, so does your entire body. Engaging in just five or ten minutes of hearty laughter can encourage your body’s muscles to relax so much that the benefits can be felt for the rest of the day.

Laughter has also been shown to significantly reduce blood pressure and feelings of stress and anxiety. If you are suffering from adrenal exhaustion, this is a huge positive.

2. Boost Your Immune System

Laughter increases your lymphatic circulation, regulates your cortisol level and increases the production of infection-fighting antibodies. These are all things that help to reduce stress and promote a healthy, strong immune system.

3. Endorphin Production

We all know endorphins as those magical things that are released into the body during and after extended periods of exercise. What you might not know is that endorphins can also be released during periods of laughter; a much easier form of exercise!

While you are laughing, the body produces and releases these natural chemicals that work to make you feel good and even give you a brief period of euphoria. This helps to improve mood and lower stress levels.

4. Good For Your Heart

A good session of laughter has been shown to improve and increase the function of your blood vessels, which in turn increases your blood flow. An increased blood flow can help to protect your body against the risk of heart attack and several other forms of cardiovascular issues.

Once again, this reduces the stress on our body, improves your health, and leaves you much more able to face any challenges that life throws at you.

5. Laughter Can Shift Perspective

One common aspect of stress is building up certain events in your mind and giving them much a bigger status than they might usually merit. Being trapped in your own thoughts during times of stress can lead to a downward spiral. Laughter can help by altering your perspective on what is causing your distress.

Emotional stressors that are constantly dwelled upon have the potential to continue growing. Getting together with friends or family and having a good laugh can actually shift you to a healthier perspective on your troubles.

Adding humor to your life is a great way to cope when you are feeling slightly overwhelmed. Seeing things from a funnier angle can put some distance between you and what you have been agonizing over. Also, you should never underestimate just how much a good laugh can help to distract you from whatever is causing you to worry, even if only for a relatively short time.

Do you find yourself constantly fatigued, and struggling to get out of bed in the mornings? Do you feel unable to cope with stressful situations? If so, you might be suffering from Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome.

The Adrenal Fatigue Solution is written by Fawne Hansen and naturopath Dr. Eric Wood. Here’s what the program contains:

  • How to diagnose your Adrenal Fatigue
  • ▸ Tips on reducing your stress levels
  • Comprehensive dietary guidelines to restore adrenal health
  • ▸ Lists of foods to eat and avoid
  • ▸ A comprehensive plan to restore your vitality

How to ease stress with laughter

Stress can creep up on us in different ways. Students pursuing graduate degrees in health sciences especially have to deal with a lot of stress balancing rigorous classes, work and their personal lives. While stress is a normal part of life, we want to mitigate it where we can so that we keep a healthy mindset.

Laughter is a natural medicine that can improve your mood, strengthen your immune system and even combat stress. From the stress of finals to anxiety from work, we all could use a little more laughter in our lives. Below are research-backed ways laughter can help relieve stress, plus an infographic with ten creative ways to add more laughter into your life.

Scientifically Proven Ways Laughter Can Relieve Stress

The health benefits of laughter cited by researchers are plenty. From boosting your immune system to increasing endorphins to your brain, below are scientifically proven ways a giggle can help you combat stress and increase your physical and mental health.

Physical health benefits

How to ease stress with laughter

  • Stimulates your organs: When you laugh, you take in more oxygen-rich air. This stimulates your lungs, heart and muscles.
  • Relaxes your muscles: When you get stressed, your body tenses up and can cause you to feel stuck. A good laugh can relieve physical tension in the body and relax the muscles for up to 45 minutes.
  • Improves cardiac health: Laughing increases your heart rate and the amount of oxygen in your blood. This can improve vascular function and decrease the risk of heart attacks.
  • Boosts immune system: When you’re stressed, negative thoughts can turn into chemical reactions that decrease your immunity to sickness. When you laugh, you adopt a positive mindset that can release infection-fighting antibodies and neuropeptides that help fight stress.
  • Lowers blood pressure: Laughter releases endorphins that counteract the negative effects of stress hormones—lowering your blood pressure as a result.
  • Helps with weight loss: A common side effect of chronic stress is weight gain. Laughing not only reduces the stress hormones that cause weight gain, but it also burns calories.

Mental health benefits

How to ease stress with laughter

  • Provides distraction: When you laugh, you aren’t thinking about that assignment that is overdue or the big final you have coming up next week. Laughter provides your brain with a break from the worrying thoughts that cause stress.
  • Improves your mood: Nothing squashes a bad mood quite like a good laugh. Laughing produces a general sense of well-being and can diffuse the anger and depression you were once feeling.
  • Reduces stress hormones: Cortisol is our primary stress hormone that circulates throughout the body when you’re feeling stressed. Laughter can decrease cortisol levels by increasing your intake of oxygen and stimulating circulation throughout the body.
  • Increases endorphins: Endorphins are those “feel-good” chemicals produced by your brain that help boost happiness levels. Laughing increases the number of endorphins released in your body, fighting off stress and promoting a positive mood.
  • Strengthens relationships: A shared laugh with friends, family or a coworker can help you feel more connected to that person and form a strong and lasting bond. Humor is also a powerful way to heal past disagreements or resentments.

10 Ways to Add More Laughter to Your Life

With all the seriousness that school and work bring, we tend to forget how important it is to make time for laughter. From hosting a game night to trying out a new hobby like laughter yoga, below are ten ways to promote laughter in your life.

  1. Follow a funny meme account: There’s a reason funny memes go viral. They make people laugh! Follow some funny meme accounts to put a smile on your face every time you hop on social media.
  2. Create a Pinterest board: Start a Pinterest board full of things that make you laugh, like quotes or hilarious pictures. Next time you find something on the internet that makes you smile, pin it to your board so you can look at it next time you’re feeling stressed.
  3. Spend time with pets: Pets, such as dogs and cats, are a source of laughter and joy for many people. If you don’t have a pet, consider asking a friend to pet-sit theirs or volunteer at an animal shelter in your free time.
  4. Listen to a funny podcast: On your way to work or school, listen to a funny podcast to start your day off with a laugh.
  5. Try laughter yoga: Laughter yoga is a new take on yoga that encourages prolonged voluntary laughter. Try out a class by yourself or take it with a friend next time you’re feeling stressed.
  6. Laugh at yourself: Learning to laugh at yourself is one of the best ways you can add more laughter into your life. Next time you do something that would otherwise upset you, try to find the positive in the situation.
  7. Alter your environment: Your environment can play a huge part in your mood. Reshape your work or study area to include things that make you smile, like a picture with friends from a funny night out, or a photo of your dog in a hilarious costume.
  8. Host a game night: Nothing beats a shared laugh. Invite some friends over for a game night and play party-style games like Charades or Apples to Apples.
  9. Watch YouTube videos: Need a quick laugh? Head to YouTube. Search anything from jumping cats to funny clips from your favorite show for a fast and easy pick-me-up.
  10. Spend time with playful people: We tend to be influenced by the people we hang around. Make an effort to hang out more with the funniest friend in your circle. Ask them to get coffee or lunch and talk about the silly things that happened in your day.

Whether you’re stressed about finals or your current workload, making an effort to engage in some of the above activities and laugh a little can help mitigate any excess stress. Participating in some of these activities doesn’t take long. If you only have five minutes, watch a funny YouTube video. If you have a free night this week, consider having friends over for a game night.

Whichever way you choose to add more laughter into your life, maintaining a healthy mindset is important for grad students. Take a look at our infographic below for more tips on how to relieve stress with a little bit of laughter.

How to ease stress with laughterWhen it comes to relieving stress, more giggles and guffaws are just what the doctor ordered. Here’s why.

Whether you’re guffawing at a sitcom on TV or quietly giggling at a newspaper cartoon, laughing does you good. Laughter is a great form of stress relief, and that’s no joke.

Stress relief from laughter

Short-term benefits

A good laugh has great short-term effects. When you start to laugh, it doesn’t just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body. Laughter can:

  • Stimulate many organs. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs, and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.
  • Activate and relieve your stress response. A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response, and it can increase and then decrease your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.
  • Soothe tension. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.

Long-term effects

Laughter isn’t just a quick pick-me-up, though. It’s also good for you over the long term. Laughter may:

  • Improve your immune system. Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. By contrast, positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.
  • Relieve pain. Laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers.
  • Increase personal satisfaction. Laughter can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations. It also helps you connect with other people.
  • Improve your mood. Many people experience depression, sometimes due to chronic illnesses. Laughter can help lessen your depression and anxiety and may make you feel happier.

Improve your sense of humor

Are you afraid you have an underdeveloped — or nonexistent — sense of humor? No problem. Humor can be learned. In fact, developing or refining your sense of humor may be easier than you think.

  • Put humor on your horizon. Find a few simple items, such as photos, greeting cards or comic strips, that make you chuckle. Then hang them up at home or in your office. Keep funny movies, books, magazines or comedy videos on hand for when you need an added humor boost. Look online at joke websites. Go to a comedy club.
  • Laugh and the world laughs with you. Find a way to laugh about your own situations and watch your stress begin to fade away. Even if it feels forced at first, practice laughing. It does your body good.
Consider trying laughter yoga. In laughter yoga, people practice laughter as a group. Laughter is forced at first, but it can soon turn into spontaneous laughter.
  • Share a laugh. Make it a habit to spend time with friends who make you laugh. And then return the favor by sharing funny stories or jokes with those around you.
  • Knock, knock. Browse through your local bookstore or library’s selection of joke books and add a few jokes to your list that you can share with friends.
  • Know what isn’t funny. Don’t laugh at the expense of others. Some forms of humor aren’t appropriate. Use your best judgment to discern a good joke from a bad or hurtful one.
  • Laughter is the best medicine

    Go ahead and give it a try. Turn the corners of your mouth up into a smile and then give a laugh, even if it feels a little forced. Once you’ve had your chuckle, take stock of how you’re feeling. Are your muscles a little less tense? Do you feel more relaxed or buoyant? That’s the natural wonder of laughing at work.

    • facebook
    • twitter
    • linkedin
    • instagram

    Rachel Goldman, PhD FTOS is a licensed psychologist, clinical assistant professor, speaker, wellness expert specializing in weight management and eating behaviors.

    How to ease stress with laughter

    Research has shown that the health benefits of laughter are far-ranging. Studies so far have shown that laughter can help relieve pain, bring greater happiness, and even increase immunity. Positive psychology names the propensity for laughter and sense of humor as one of the 24 main signature strengths one can possess.  

    Unfortunately, however, many people don’t get enough laughter in their lives.

    In fact, one study suggests that healthy children may laugh as much as 400 times per day, but adults tend to laugh only 15 times per day.

    Other studies find us laughing a little more than that, but if you ask me, virtually all of us could use a little more laughter in our lives, considering how beneficial a good laugh can actually be for our stress levels and overall wellness.

    Stress Management Benefits of Laughter

    Here are some of the many ways laughter reduces stress.

    Hormones

    Laughter reduces the level of stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline), dopamine, and growth hormone. It also increases the level of health-enhancing hormones, like endorphins.

    Laughter increases the number of antibody-producing cells we have working for us and enhances the effectiveness of T cells. All this means a stronger immune system, as well as fewer physical effects of stress.  

    Physical Release

    Have you ever felt like you have to laugh or you’ll cry? Have you experienced that cleansed feeling after a good laugh? Laughter provides a physical and emotional release.

    Internal Workout

    A good belly laugh exercises the diaphragm, contracts the abs, and even works out the shoulders, leaving muscles more relaxed afterward. It even provides a good workout for the heart.

    Distraction

    Laughter brings the focus away from anger, guilt, stress, and negative emotions in a more beneficial way than other mere distractions.

    Perspective

    Studies show that our response to stressful events can be altered by whether we view something as a threat or a challenge. Humor can give us a more lighthearted perspective and help us view events as challenges, thereby making them less threatening and more positive.  

    Social Benefits

    Laughter connects us with others. Just as with smiling and kindness, most people find that laughter is contagious. So, if you bring more laughter into your life, you can most likely help others around you to laugh more and realize these benefits as well.

    By elevating the mood of those around you, you can reduce their stress levels and perhaps improve the quality of social interaction you experience with them, reducing your stress level even more!

    How to Use Laughter

    Laughter is one of my all-time favorite stress management strategies because it’s free, convenient, and beneficial in so many ways. You can get more laughter in your life with the following strategies.

    Laugh With Friends

    Going to a movie or a comedy club with friends is a great way to get more laughter in your life. The contagious effects of laughter may mean you’ll laugh more than you otherwise would have during the show, plus you’ll have jokes to reference at later times.

    Having friends over for a party or game night is also a great setup for laughter and other good feelings. Making time for this kind of fun is as important as any other habit you keep in your life to support your health, and it’s very possibly more enjoyable than most health habits as well.

    Find Humor in Your Life

    Instead of complaining about life’s frustrations, try to laugh about them. If something is so frustrating or depressing it’s ridiculous, realize that you could ‘look back on it and laugh.’ Think of how it will sound like a story you could tell your friends, and then see if you can laugh about it now.

    With this attitude, you may also find yourself being more lighthearted and silly, giving yourself and those around you more to laugh about. Approach life in a more mirthful way and you’ll find you’re less stressed about negative events.

    Fake It Until You Make It

    Just as studies show the positive effects of smiling occur whether the smile is fake or real, faked laughter also provides the benefits mentioned above. The body can’t distinguish between ‘fake’ laughter that you just start doing on purpose and ‘real’ laughter that comes from true humor.

    The physical benefits are exactly the same, and the former usually leads to the latter anyway. So smile more, and fake laughter; you’ll still achieve positive effects, and the fake merriment may lead to real smiles and laughter.

    Media

    There’s no shortage of laughter opportunities from entertainment, both at the theater as well as at home with streaming movies and T.V. comedies.

    While wasting your time watching something marginally funny may actually frustrate you, watching truly hilarious movies and shows is an easy way to get laughter into your life whenever you need it. You may want to share your recommendations with friends and you’ll have something to reference and laugh about together.

    • facebook
    • twitter
    • linkedin
    • instagram

    Rachel Goldman, PhD FTOS is a licensed psychologist, clinical assistant professor, speaker, wellness expert specializing in weight management and eating behaviors.

    How to ease stress with laughter

    Research has shown that the health benefits of laughter are far-ranging. Studies so far have shown that laughter can help relieve pain, bring greater happiness, and even increase immunity. Positive psychology names the propensity for laughter and sense of humor as one of the 24 main signature strengths one can possess.  

    Unfortunately, however, many people don’t get enough laughter in their lives.

    In fact, one study suggests that healthy children may laugh as much as 400 times per day, but adults tend to laugh only 15 times per day.

    Other studies find us laughing a little more than that, but if you ask me, virtually all of us could use a little more laughter in our lives, considering how beneficial a good laugh can actually be for our stress levels and overall wellness.

    Stress Management Benefits of Laughter

    Here are some of the many ways laughter reduces stress.

    Hormones

    Laughter reduces the level of stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline), dopamine, and growth hormone. It also increases the level of health-enhancing hormones, like endorphins.

    Laughter increases the number of antibody-producing cells we have working for us and enhances the effectiveness of T cells. All this means a stronger immune system, as well as fewer physical effects of stress.  

    Physical Release

    Have you ever felt like you have to laugh or you’ll cry? Have you experienced that cleansed feeling after a good laugh? Laughter provides a physical and emotional release.

    Internal Workout

    A good belly laugh exercises the diaphragm, contracts the abs, and even works out the shoulders, leaving muscles more relaxed afterward. It even provides a good workout for the heart.

    Distraction

    Laughter brings the focus away from anger, guilt, stress, and negative emotions in a more beneficial way than other mere distractions.

    Perspective

    Studies show that our response to stressful events can be altered by whether we view something as a threat or a challenge. Humor can give us a more lighthearted perspective and help us view events as challenges, thereby making them less threatening and more positive.  

    Social Benefits

    Laughter connects us with others. Just as with smiling and kindness, most people find that laughter is contagious. So, if you bring more laughter into your life, you can most likely help others around you to laugh more and realize these benefits as well.

    By elevating the mood of those around you, you can reduce their stress levels and perhaps improve the quality of social interaction you experience with them, reducing your stress level even more!

    How to Use Laughter

    Laughter is one of my all-time favorite stress management strategies because it’s free, convenient, and beneficial in so many ways. You can get more laughter in your life with the following strategies.

    Laugh With Friends

    Going to a movie or a comedy club with friends is a great way to get more laughter in your life. The contagious effects of laughter may mean you’ll laugh more than you otherwise would have during the show, plus you’ll have jokes to reference at later times.

    Having friends over for a party or game night is also a great setup for laughter and other good feelings. Making time for this kind of fun is as important as any other habit you keep in your life to support your health, and it’s very possibly more enjoyable than most health habits as well.

    Find Humor in Your Life

    Instead of complaining about life’s frustrations, try to laugh about them. If something is so frustrating or depressing it’s ridiculous, realize that you could ‘look back on it and laugh.’ Think of how it will sound like a story you could tell your friends, and then see if you can laugh about it now.

    With this attitude, you may also find yourself being more lighthearted and silly, giving yourself and those around you more to laugh about. Approach life in a more mirthful way and you’ll find you’re less stressed about negative events.

    Fake It Until You Make It

    Just as studies show the positive effects of smiling occur whether the smile is fake or real, faked laughter also provides the benefits mentioned above. The body can’t distinguish between ‘fake’ laughter that you just start doing on purpose and ‘real’ laughter that comes from true humor.

    The physical benefits are exactly the same, and the former usually leads to the latter anyway. So smile more, and fake laughter; you’ll still achieve positive effects, and the fake merriment may lead to real smiles and laughter.

    Media

    There’s no shortage of laughter opportunities from entertainment, both at the theater as well as at home with streaming movies and T.V. comedies.

    While wasting your time watching something marginally funny may actually frustrate you, watching truly hilarious movies and shows is an easy way to get laughter into your life whenever you need it. You may want to share your recommendations with friends and you’ll have something to reference and laugh about together.

    Alexandra Carl is an intern at The Learning Corp and studies Psychology at Northeastern University. Her studies and work experience have focused on social psychology and life science, fostering a deep admiration for the mind-body connection.

    These times are unprecedented. It seems as though COVID-19 has turned the world on its head, yielding public health emergency responses that have left us feeling uncertain, exposed, and frightened. With so much ambiguity there is one thing for certain: being in a constant state of distress is unhealthy for both body and mind.

    What can we do to lighten the current load on our mental health?

    Fortunately, we have one of the most powerful tools for healing at our fingertips: laughter. There is plenty of clinical evidence to support the health benefits of laughter. And though it may seem like encouraging laughter at this time is not appropriate, there is a place for it. Chronic stress is harmful to our health, and humor is a tool used by the brain to help manage and redirect a hyper-stress response. We know that having a good belly laugh brings feelings of relief throughout the body. And perhaps a good way to deal with difficult times is finding humor in some of the absurdity of the situation. If you can sensibly adopt this perspective, your body will thank you!

    How does laughter impact our bodies and brain?

    Our bodies react viscerally to a humorous experience. In the wake of a hearty laugh, chemicals are released throughout the entire body that works to heal and relax our biological system – meaning our cells relate to laughter as natural medicine.

    When you laugh, the muscles in your core tense up. This tension temporarily increases your circulation and blood pressure. However, in the immediate wake of a good chuckle, this muscular tension dissolves. Therefore, your heart rate and blood pressure decrease, leaving in their wake a feeling of holistic relaxation, and this stimulation helps to relieve the physical symptoms of stress.

    [Like what you’re reading? Sign up here for The BrainWire Bulletin to get stories like this (and much more!) delivered straight to your inbox every other week.]

    On a more microscopic level, laughter releases a flood of endorphins. Endorphins are naturally occurring “feel-good” chemicals that have the ability to not only relieve stress but also alleviate pain. We also know that laughter decreases the presence of stress hormones, and promotes the function of immune cells and antibodies, therefore providing an extra boost in immune function.

    And there are cognitive benefits of laughter. Often after indulging in something humorous, it is easier to conceptualize situations with a “big picture” perspective. Shifting into this mindset can lead you to perceive things as less immediately threatening. This allows the brain to realistically consider information that previously was categorized as overwhelming, leading to more rational and productive decision making.

    Laughter counteracts negative emotions and helps us connect with others – even if they’re not in the same room

    When daily life feels more serious, laughter can stop negative emotions in their tracks and replace them with feelings of gratitude, presence, and abundance. And a positive attitude is much more resilient and adaptive and can lead to more constructive problem-solving strategies in the long term.

    One of the most profound outcomes of laughing is that it can foster deep social connection. Sharing a moment of joy with another person, in the midst of something so difficult, is truly unifying. Staying connected with loved ones is incredibly crucial at this time. Sharing a joke helps to diffuse conflict, and maintain alliances with those who matter most.

    Tips on how to integrate more laughter into your day

    1. Joke around with loved ones. Make it a habit to speak with loved ones who you find to be good-natured and make you laugh. A light-hearted conversation by phone, video conferencing or social media is certain to be a welcome break from the gravity of current events
    2. Move toward the laughter. If you hear laughter, move towards it! Some jokes are private, but many welcome a greater audience. Staying home with family and loved ones mean you will most likely be welcomed in on the joke. If you are more socially isolated, seek out virtual humor. Watch funny TV shows, comb through humorous websites, or check social media channels that make you chuckle.
    3. Be goofy with your kids, grandkids, or companion animals living with you. With kids around all the time, it may feel more disruptive, but, it also offers more opportunities for play. Goofing around with younger kids and playing with pets is a great way to bring out your inner child, and inspire laughter.
    4. If you don’t want to force it, just smile. Smiling can lead to an endorphin release, resulting in a much-needed mood boost. So, if you are not feeling particularly silly or humorous on a given day, just try to find a few things to smile about.

    Online resources to help bring light and laughter into your day

    • Good News Network: positive news stories from around the globe
    • Read your favorite comic strips online
    • Latest Jokes from AJokeADay
    • I can has cheezburger? ANIMALS

    Have any more to add? Let us know in the comments below.

    Ultimately, it is important to try to maintain a grounded perspective in the midst of what feels like chaos. And maintaining humor and laughter can provide extra feelings of buoyancy that may very well carry you through to the other side.

    Alexandra Carl is an intern at The Learning Corp and studies Psychology at Northeastern University. Her studies and work experience have focused on social psychology and life science, fostering a deep admiration for the mind-body connection.

    These times are unprecedented. It seems as though COVID-19 has turned the world on its head, yielding public health emergency responses that have left us feeling uncertain, exposed, and frightened. With so much ambiguity there is one thing for certain: being in a constant state of distress is unhealthy for both body and mind.

    What can we do to lighten the current load on our mental health?

    Fortunately, we have one of the most powerful tools for healing at our fingertips: laughter. There is plenty of clinical evidence to support the health benefits of laughter. And though it may seem like encouraging laughter at this time is not appropriate, there is a place for it. Chronic stress is harmful to our health, and humor is a tool used by the brain to help manage and redirect a hyper-stress response. We know that having a good belly laugh brings feelings of relief throughout the body. And perhaps a good way to deal with difficult times is finding humor in some of the absurdity of the situation. If you can sensibly adopt this perspective, your body will thank you!

    How does laughter impact our bodies and brain?

    Our bodies react viscerally to a humorous experience. In the wake of a hearty laugh, chemicals are released throughout the entire body that works to heal and relax our biological system – meaning our cells relate to laughter as natural medicine.

    When you laugh, the muscles in your core tense up. This tension temporarily increases your circulation and blood pressure. However, in the immediate wake of a good chuckle, this muscular tension dissolves. Therefore, your heart rate and blood pressure decrease, leaving in their wake a feeling of holistic relaxation, and this stimulation helps to relieve the physical symptoms of stress.

    [Like what you’re reading? Sign up here for The BrainWire Bulletin to get stories like this (and much more!) delivered straight to your inbox every other week.]

    On a more microscopic level, laughter releases a flood of endorphins. Endorphins are naturally occurring “feel-good” chemicals that have the ability to not only relieve stress but also alleviate pain. We also know that laughter decreases the presence of stress hormones, and promotes the function of immune cells and antibodies, therefore providing an extra boost in immune function.

    And there are cognitive benefits of laughter. Often after indulging in something humorous, it is easier to conceptualize situations with a “big picture” perspective. Shifting into this mindset can lead you to perceive things as less immediately threatening. This allows the brain to realistically consider information that previously was categorized as overwhelming, leading to more rational and productive decision making.

    Laughter counteracts negative emotions and helps us connect with others – even if they’re not in the same room

    When daily life feels more serious, laughter can stop negative emotions in their tracks and replace them with feelings of gratitude, presence, and abundance. And a positive attitude is much more resilient and adaptive and can lead to more constructive problem-solving strategies in the long term.

    One of the most profound outcomes of laughing is that it can foster deep social connection. Sharing a moment of joy with another person, in the midst of something so difficult, is truly unifying. Staying connected with loved ones is incredibly crucial at this time. Sharing a joke helps to diffuse conflict, and maintain alliances with those who matter most.

    Tips on how to integrate more laughter into your day

    1. Joke around with loved ones. Make it a habit to speak with loved ones who you find to be good-natured and make you laugh. A light-hearted conversation by phone, video conferencing or social media is certain to be a welcome break from the gravity of current events
    2. Move toward the laughter. If you hear laughter, move towards it! Some jokes are private, but many welcome a greater audience. Staying home with family and loved ones mean you will most likely be welcomed in on the joke. If you are more socially isolated, seek out virtual humor. Watch funny TV shows, comb through humorous websites, or check social media channels that make you chuckle.
    3. Be goofy with your kids, grandkids, or companion animals living with you. With kids around all the time, it may feel more disruptive, but, it also offers more opportunities for play. Goofing around with younger kids and playing with pets is a great way to bring out your inner child, and inspire laughter.
    4. If you don’t want to force it, just smile. Smiling can lead to an endorphin release, resulting in a much-needed mood boost. So, if you are not feeling particularly silly or humorous on a given day, just try to find a few things to smile about.

    Online resources to help bring light and laughter into your day

    • Good News Network: positive news stories from around the globe
    • Read your favorite comic strips online
    • Latest Jokes from AJokeADay
    • I can has cheezburger? ANIMALS

    Have any more to add? Let us know in the comments below.

    Ultimately, it is important to try to maintain a grounded perspective in the midst of what feels like chaos. And maintaining humor and laughter can provide extra feelings of buoyancy that may very well carry you through to the other side.

    How to ease stress with laughter

    Anxiety isn’t funny. It is, instead, rather humorless. When my head pounds and spins, when my chest constricts and spasms in a fit of coughing, when I feel worried and afraid for reasons too vague to wrap my mind around — and simultaneously too specific to pull my mind out of– the last thing I feel like doing is laughing. Nothing seems remotely funny. Finding humor can be difficult when we live with anxiety; however, if we can begin to look for humor, we can find that laughter can be a great coping skill.

    Laughter Reduces Anxiety

    Researchers are discovering that laughter has many benefits. Among the ways laughter lifts us is by increasing our overall well-being and boosting our mental health. 1

    When we live with anxiety day in and day out or are in the throes of a panic attack, our stress hormones, such as cortisol and epinephrine, pulse through us. As a result, we remain tense, coiled for action, and anxious.

    How to ease stress with laughter

    Although there are no quick fixes for anything in life, remarkably, a good laugh can instantly begin to reduce these nasty stress hormones that are intertwined with anxiety. Laughter gets to work immediately, and a regular “diet” of laughter continues to decrease anxiety over time.

    How is it that laughter can reduce anxiety when anxiety is no laughing matter? The act of laughing is similar to deep breathing in its ability to increase the oxygen in our bodies. Coupled with reducing stress hormones, the increased oxygen in the body helps lead to muscle relaxation. All of this helps reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety.

    Laughter Delivers a Less Anxious Outlook

    Laughing feels good. It’s addictive; we keep wanting more. When we laugh regularly, our anxiety begins to decrease.

    When we embrace humor and give ourselves a chance to be a little bit lighter for even a short while each day, we shift our focus. Rather than seeing the world within and without as a worrisome place, we start to see it as a good, safe, perhaps even fun, place. We start to see beyond the anxiety. Sure, the anxiety lingers for a while, but every time we can laugh we loosen its stronghold.

    Introducing intentional laughter into our lives decreases stress hormones. Breathing deeply during the act of laughing relaxes muscles. Thinking about something funny shifts our focus to new things. Embracing humor regularly helps our outlook become more positive. Humor and laughter diminish anxiety.

    The difficulty with this lies not so much in believing what researchers are reporting but in applying it. “How can I possibly laugh when my anxiety is so strong all the time?” is a common question. I invite you to tune into the video for a few suggestions to get you started.

    APA Reference
    Peterson, T. (2014, December 25). Laughter Can Chase Away Anxiety, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, June 3 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2014/12/laughter-can-chase-away-anxiety

    Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC, DAIS

    Tanya J. Peterson is the author of numerous anxiety self-help books, including The Morning Magic 5-Minute Journal, The Mindful Path Through Anxiety, 101 Ways to Help Stop Anxiety, The 5-Minute Anxiety Relief Journal, The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety, The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety, and Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 steps. She has also written five critically acclaimed, award-winning novels about life with mental health challenges. She delivers workshops for all ages and provides online and in-person mental health education for youth. She has shared information about creating a quality life on podcasts, summits, print and online interviews and articles, and at speaking events. Tanya is a Diplomate of the American Institution of Stress helping to educate others about stress and provide useful tools for handling it well in order to live a healthy and vibrant life. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.