The world is a serious place right now – Manchester United have been knocked out of the Champions League, Donald Trump is a potential United States president and it’s possible that the Hunger Games franchise is threatening to churn out prequels. It’s a good time to laugh it all off.
Life is never easy. Curling into a little ball and blubbering uncontrollably while your stress levels rocket won’t do you much good, though.
A better solution? Have a laugh. A big, uproarious guffaw will do. Laughing out loud increases oxygen and blood flow, which automatically reduces stress. Not taking life too seriously can help everyone live a better and easier life.
According to the Telegraph newspaper the simple act of laughing is increasingly being used in the United Kingdom as a strategy for coping with mental and physical ailments, from depression to chronic pain, and even to support cancer patients.
Laughter really is the best medicine.
Laughing releases endorphins, and reduces the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine. A University of Maryland study found that laughing dilates the inner lining of our blood vessels, the endothelium, and so improves circulation. “Your immune system is boosted by up to 40 percent,” laughter therapist Julie Whitehead told the Telegraph.
Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist at Oxford, talking in the New York Times, says that it’s not the intellectual pleasure of cerebral humour, but the physical act of laughing that gets results. “The simple muscular exertions involved in producing the familiar ha, ha, ha,” he told the paper, “trigger an increase in endorphins, the brain chemicals known for their feel-good effect.”
The renowned medical research organisation, the Mayo Clinic, says that when you start to laugh, it doesn't just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body. “A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response and increases your heart rate and blood pressure,” notes the clinic. “The result? A good, relaxed feeling.”
To up your chuckle-rate, place more emphasis on comedy in your life – comic strips, humorous books and funny movies are a start. Try and spend time around humorous friends to get you in the mood. And when all else fails, sit down and laugh instead of grimacing at the prospect of driving home in rush hour traffic. “Find a way to laugh about your own situations and watch your stress begin to fade away, ” say the Mayo Clinic researchers. “Even if it feels forced at first, practice laughing. It does your body good.”