Dr Jenny Brockis
This article has been supplied and reproduced with permission from the Great Health Guide, a 96five community contributor.
Research has shown how laughter is important for our social relationships, brain function and overall level of happiness.
Furthermore, laughter improves health. Who knew that a good belly laugh could have such a significant impact to your overall health? In fact, the study of laughter is called gelotology.
“A clown is like an aspirin, except he works twice as fast.” Groucho Marx
So, allow me to ask you, have you ever found yourself in that situation where everything you planned turned out wrong? Like the time you spent all day preparing a big roast dinner for your prospective in-laws and your beloved had forgotten to tell you they were vegetarian. Did you laugh or cry? Choosing laughter can be very effective to help defuse a painful or awkward situation. Better still those tears can help to re-establish or deepen existing social bonds.
Feeling happy is reflected in a greater sense of resilience. We cope better and we’re more accepting of failure – seeing it as a learning opportunity rather than a terminal event. We’re more tolerant, less judgmental and inclusive. We become more generous and kind.
The prosocial benefits of laughter.
As social beings, we are hard wired to connect and we flourish in the company of others. Laughing is a great way to express joy and shared mirth and provides a powerful social signal to others. It’s thought to predate language as a way to communicate our feelings, as an indicator that danger has passed and show our acceptance into our tribe.
Being highly contagious, when one person is laughing, it’s hard not to find yourself chuckling at the as well. Hearing laughter leads us to mirror that behaviour because strong emotions synchronise the brain activity in others.
Lift your mood through laughter.
You may not be able to tickle yourself, but you can put yourself in a good mood because your brain can’t tell the difference between a fake and a real smile. When you smile, your brain recognises you are using certain facial muscles. Through this it interprets as a sign to indicate you’re happy.
This is the basis for laughter yoga, which is less to do with striking a pose and more about using laughter to raise your own level of happiness. While attending a class where you are instructed to laugh, might seem a bit weird. However, studies have shown it works by raising levels of our feel-good hormones, dopamine, serotonin and endorphins while reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
A health prescription: to laugh frequently with gusto.
Laughter improves health and really is the best medicine. Clown doctors including Patch Adams have long used laughter as a way to assist healing and restore humanity and compassion to those who are afraid or in pain.
Just as exercise is a great tonic to health, being prescribed laughter is a great total body workout. Researchers have estimated that laughing one hundred times is the equivalent to spending ten minutes on a rowing machine or 15 minutes on a treadmill. What are you waiting for? It’s time to get laughing.
Laughter boosts the immune system. Studies have shown how humour elevates natural killer cells helping us to produce antibodies against infection and increases production of endorphins. That’s why watching your favourite episode of Mr. Bean can improve your threshold for pain.
Spread some positivity around you.
While we all have a happiness set point, we can influence this because it is determined partly by our genes (50%), partly through circumstance (10%) leaving 40% of us to play with. If you’re looking to raise levels of cooperation, positive communication and happiness in those around you, a great place to start is by enjoying a side splitting laugh.
Dr Jenny Brockis is a Medical Practitioner and specialises in the science of high performance thinking. She may be contacted via her website. For more health articles go to 96five community contributor Great Health Guide