Every day, in my yoga-for-cancer work, I’m with people who are trying to take care of their bodies, quiet their minds and find some peace. So I think a lot about what it means to be healthy and happy, hence these writings about the 5 best things to give yourself (a quiet mind, a peaceful heart, a happy body, laughter and good sleep).
This month I’m talking about the benefits of laughter.
Q: What did the duck say when she bought lipstick?
A: “Put it on my bill.”
Did you know that laughter:
- reduces stress hormones like cortisol and adrenalin
- increases endorphins which can reduce pain
- strengthens your immune system
- reduces tension by relaxing your body
- increases blood flow and circulation (blood vessels expand when you laugh)
Laughter changes your mindset, shifting your perspective away from worry and fear, even if only for a little while. It connects you to others, thereby strengthening your relationships, easing your emotional load and promoting a sense of community.
You can intentionally cultivate more laughter in your life in several ways. You could set a goal of watching the 25 best movie comedies of all time or you could subscribe to a funny cat video YouTube channel (I’ve spent a little too much time researching this and can attest to its effectiveness).
You can also hang out with children and emulate their sense of play and wonder. Or spend time with your funniest friends, people who like to laugh and see the humor in everyday life.
Aside from intentional actions, you can also be mindful when laughter happens spontaneously. We’re hard wired for negative bias which means we spend more mental energy on what’s wrong than what’s right. You can re-wire your brain for happiness by noting when joy is happening – Oh, I’m laughing! This is a pleasant moment. Noting!
Another approach is to start shifting your mindset by just smiling more. Not fake smiling, real smiling. Notice the effects on yourself and others. Smiling moves you away from negative thoughts and stress and helps you cultivate more positive moments. And it releases the feel-good neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin.
Try being playful. Don’t take yourself too seriously, laugh at your foibles. Shake up your sense of self, by letting your inner silliness have more air time. My close friends would tell you that I’m pretty good at this practice.
Join a laughter yoga club. Yes, it’s a real thing! They simulate laughter by working the diaphragm and soon they are really laughing.
Think of this pursuit of laughter and joy as a serious prescription for healing. Don’t laugh it off (pun intended) as silly and inconsequential – give it value. Healing is not just about your ailment going away, but about achieving a vibrant state of peace, contentment and joy. Take your laughter more seriously!