Laughter may not be the best medicine for, say, your seasonal allergies, but it can sure lighten your mood! From short-term benefits to long-term effects, laughter can boost your mental and physical health. So find ways to add a little more laughter to your life. When times are tough, the habit of humor and good cheer can be lifesavers.
“A good laugh has great short-term effects,” according to Mayo Clinic. “When you start to laugh, it doesn’t just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body.”
“When you laugh, you stimulate your heart, lungs and muscles, and your brain releases more endorphins, the happiness hormone,” said Mother Bernadette, activities director at Cedar Crest Nursing and Rehabilitation, a skilled nursing facility in Sunnyvale, California. “With all this stimulation, your body activates the stress response and then cools it right back down, leaving you with a relaxed feeling.”
Finally, “laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress,” according to Mayo Clinic.
Does laughing change your life in the long run? You bet! Here are some of the long-term effects of laughter on mental health, according to Dan Brennan, MD:
- A boost to your immune system: “Positive thoughts lead to the release of neuropeptides. These are brain chemicals known to fight anxiety, stress, and other related mental conditions.”
- Pain relief: Laughing releases natural pain killers. The more you laugh, the more physical relief you feel.
- Positivity: “Positive thoughts and good relationships may assist you to cope by taking your mind off difficult situations.”
- Improving mood: Laughter can reduce anxiety and depression, which helps you feel happier overall.
Ideas to Get the Whole Family Laughing
Now that you know the health benefits of laughter, here are a few ways to add some chuckles, giggles, and snorts into your life:
- The Speak Out game: In this game, you take turns reading phrases and having your teammates guess what you are saying. The catch? When you’re reading, you have to wear a mouthpiece that won’t let you close your mouth! Hilarity ensues as the person wearing the mouthpiece tries to say phrases like “He’s my stealthy pet ferret named Garrett,” and the team comes up with wild guesses based on what they hear.
- DryBar Comedy: Head over to DryBar Comedy on YouTube or catch a show live in Provo for standup shows that the whole family can enjoy.
- ComedySportz: Also in Provo, ComedySportz is an interactive live comedy show, making it a unique experience every time. The audience throws out suggestions, and the comedians compete to make the audience laugh.
- Pet sitting: Do pets make your family laugh? Then offer a friend to dog- or cat-sit! It’s hard not to chuckle when you see a labrador carrying random objects around the house or a fluffy cat ferociously attacking a small toy fish.
- Laugh jar: Collect a jar of funny things your family members say throughout the year. Then read them together on New Year’s Eve to relive the year’s funniest memories.
- Comics and memes: Some things make you laugh every time you see them. If you find something like that, print it out and put it somewhere you’ll see it every day or save it as your phone’s background.
Laughter really is excellent medicine! Be positive and have a giggle with your loved ones to experience the short-term and long-term benefits of a life full of laughter. And share your laughter with those around you to spread the joy.
A version of this article was published by The Daily Herald. It has been republished here with permission.