When was the last time you laughed out loud? Hopefully you’re among the fortunate ones who have enjoyed the delights of laughing recently – and the powerful health benefits that come with it. Laughter improves our physical and emotional health, strengthens our relationships, and boosts our overall happiness. Nothing works faster or more consistently to bring the mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. It strengthens the immune system, diminishes pain, and protects us from the damaging effects of stress. In fact, research has shown that people who possess a positive outlook and a sense of humor outlive their more serious counterparts.
With so much to love about laughter, let’s take a closer look at how it can promote wellness in our everyday lives:
1. Decreases stress. Laughing instantly reduces the levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline), and dopamine, and increases the production of serotonin and endorphins, which reduce the effects of stress.
2. Increases resilience. The ability to laugh, or at least smile, when times get tough is the best way to reduce stress and anxiety. While a little stress motivates us into action, laughter helps us to focus on the solution and achieve more productive outcomes.
3. Enhances creativity. Laughter affects many chemical processes in the body. The combination of reduced stress hormones, increased endorphins, and increased oxygenation to the blood and brain boosts creativity.
4. Fights depression. Being unhappy can become a mindset if we don’t get outside of ourselves occasionally. Research indicates that laughter is a great way to find relief from the downward spiral into depression.
5. Boosts the immune system. Laughing improves the body’s natural defense mechanisms by increasing the amount of immunoglobulin and T cells in the body.
6. Manages pain. People who laugh often don’t experience less pain, but they report being less bothered by the pain they do feel. The amount of pain remains the same, but perceived pain levels are reduced as coping mechanisms increase.
7. Reduces the risk of heart disease. Laughing expands the inner walls of the arteries, increasing the ability of blood to flow throughout the body. This positive effect lasts for up to 45 minutes after the laughter has stopped.
8. Helps us look younger. As many as 15 facial muscles work together when we smile or laugh. This increases the blood flow around the face, boosting circulation in the smallest of capillaries, helping us to appear more vibrant and youthful.
9. Tones muscles. Laughter engages the body’s diaphragm and abdominal muscle systems during the repetitive expanding and contracting that occurs when we laugh for an extended period of time.
10. Bonds us to others. Laughter causes the release of oxytocin. Often called the empathy hormone, oxytocin helps bond individuals and groups together. A little laughter is great for team-building, whether it’s at home, in the community, or at work.
Children laugh easily and often, but as adults, we tend to forget to make room for laughter in our daily lives. Reconnect with your bliss and bring some humor into your life each day. With so much power to heal and renew, laughter really is the best medicine!
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