There is no doubt 2020 has been a tough year for all of us. From Australian bush fires to the Ukrainian jet crash in Iran, from riots in Delhi and Hong Kong to Earthquakes in Turkey, from the murder of George Floyd which sparked the recent BLM movement to the seemingly never-ending coronavirus crisis. It’s been one challenging event after another, and that’s not even counting the personal and local tragedies that have marked our individual lives.
Seems like sitting down and crying might be a good option now, right? Wrong! While having a cry is good once in a while, a far better alternative in time of trouble might be to… laugh!
Yes, laugh. After all, they do say that laughter is the best medicine. Now, let’s find out why.
How laughter helps your mental health
While laughter might appear to be a reaction saved for times of joy and fun, it can be an effective reaction in times of hardship and tragedy too.
Ever saw someone laughing somewhere they really shouldn’t? At a funeral perhaps? Well, you might be surprised to learn that this is an altogether natural reaction and can, in fact, help your mind and body cope with issues it is experiencing. Laughter helps to:
Reduce negative emotions
Feelings of anxiety, stress, anger, depression or sadness, don’t feel as intense when you’re laughing.
Relax and discharge negative energy
Stress is reduced by the action of laughing and pushed away from the body. This helps you get down from the effects of negative emotions and come back to calm.
Change how you think and feel about a situation
Once that intensive burst of negativity is gone from your body. You may be better able to relax. This allows you to view the situation that surrounds you in a new light, a different perspective and can help stop your feeling overwhelmed.
Give you the power to cope
As your perspective shifts, you may find yourself better able to emotionally distance from the situation at hand. In doing so, you may find yourself stronger and better able to take on the challenges that surround you with renewed energy.
Become closer to those around you
Laughter is contagious and once you find the humor among the darkness, it’s likely others will too. It is a powerful tool for building connections with others and has a deep social evolutionary function. That’s why sharing a ‘joke’ is a great way to bond.
Feel physically more healthy
A stronger immune system, lower blood pressure, better sleep; these are just some of the physical benefits of laughing. What better excuse do you need?!
Let’s get down to business and answer all those laughing FAQs and find out why it can be so effective.
Why do humans laugh?
Before we can even speak, we can laugh. Laughter starts as early as 3 months old and continuous throughout our lives. It helps us communicate and show we wish no ill intention to those around us.
It also helps us connect and communicate. It is used to establish bonds and show our affection for others. In short, it’s an essential social trait.
What happens to your body when you laugh?
We know that laughing has an important social and psychological function, but what exactly is going on behind the scenes in our bodies when we titter? According to the New York Times, even the anticipation of laughter or the smile movements that accompany it can deliver a mood-booster to our bodies. This causes those feel-good chemicals to be released and us to become happier – all from just a simple laugh
But that’s not all. Research shows that laughter light up more than one area of the brain, meaning the effects of laughter are further felt than just the initial sounds you make. While we haven’t uncovered the precise long-lasting effects of this yet, it’s evident that laughter is a powerful tool for the brain.
That giggle also provides stress relief to the body and this can be felt for up to 45 minutes after the event. Doctors have even noticed a reduction in blood pressure, meaning that great big belly laugh is good for more than just your mood.
On the downside, if you’ve ever used the abbreviation ROFL (rolling on the floor laughing) you might be surprised to know that a fit of the giggles can actually cause a reduction in muscle coordination, making you more likely to become clumsy.
P.S.Laughter is great for burning calories too! Between 10-15 minutes of laughter can eliminate up to 40 calories. It might not seem like much, but it’s just one more reason to smile today.
Am I crazy for laughing right now?
When times are tough, laughing might seem like the least appropriate thing to. But, in fact, it’s very normal. Sometimes, when we don’t know precisely what to do with our emotions a laugh spills out into the universe.
Let me tell you a quick story about how ‘inappropriate’ laughter turned around a situation and brought a family closer together. At one of our family’s funerals, everyone was mourning the loss of a close family member. The mood was somber, and almost everyone was exhausted from the shock passing of our loved one.
One of the cousins was making tea and coffee for all those sitting around the table. Tiredness had well and truly set in at this stage. By mistake, he put a tea bag and coffee into the same cup, and not just one drink, but all the cups.
On realizing his mistake, after pouring the boiling hot water in, he burst out laughing. And when he finally managed to compose himself enough to say what had happened as we all stared on. Everyone else burst into a fit of the giggles too.
This simple mistake caused a ripple effect that lightened a tough day and brought the family closer together. That’s why, when you laugh at inappropriate times, it’s likely you are not crazy and not cruel. You are, in fact, human.
Note: The Pseudobulbar affect (PBA) can cause sudden outbursts of laughter for no reason. So, if, you have recently had a head injury or have an underlying condition and are experiencing uncontrollable laughter, please consult your doctor immediately.
I laugh at inappropriate times, is this normal?
At funerals, in a deadly silent elevator, at church. These are times when people have been known to break out into an infectious fit of laughter. And the truth is? It’s entirely normal. Sometimes we just can’t help ourselves, and especially when it seems inappropriate it can be hard to resist that urge.
So, if you feel it’s ok to do so. Then laugh. If it’s really not, cover your mouth to hide that growing grin and try to extract yourself from the situation. A laugh that strong can’t be contained.
Is laughter the best medicine, right now?
Right now, you’re probably wondering, should I laugh or cry with all that’s going on all around us? Our answer? Laugh as if your life depended on it.
Often there is very little we can physically do about external events that affect us, that’s why, instead of getting down about them the best thing you can do is laugh.
A laugh a day keeps the doctor away
While laughing might not cure you from all ails, it’s long been proven that a positive outlook has a massive impact on health outcomes and vitality. So, what activities and things can you do to get your one-a-day?
- Call a friend
- Tell a joke (even the anticipation of a punchline will work)
- Watch a comedy movie
- Click on a YouTube video skit
- Go to a live comedy event
- Fake it till you make it
- Play a prank
- Meet up with friends
- Get someone to tickle you
Got more ideas? We’d love to hear them, but for now, go and laugh as if your life depended on it. Your health sure does.