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Mental Health

Why Laughter Is The Best Medicine

Deepanwita Roy, Clinical Psychologist

It’s always fun to share a good laugh, but did you know that it can actually improve your health?

It is true: laughter is a strong medicine. Best of all, this priceless medicine is fun, free and easy to use. Who doesn’t enjoy a good laugh? Regardless of watching a funny Youtube video or reminiscing about a hilarious event from the past or even attending a comedy show, laughter connects us to a moment of pure happiness and joy. Hence, next time, if someone is cracking a joke to you or trying to pull off a practical prank on you, thank them. They actually did you a favour!

Laughter is good for your physical health

We have a lot of gain from laughing! Laughter has the following benefits on our overall physical health:

  • Relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laughter exercises and relaxes our body muscles, improves our respiration, stimulates circulation, relieves physical tension and stress for up to 45 minutes later. 
  • Boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving our resistance to diseases. 
  • Protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect us against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.
  • Triggers the release of endorphins, natural feel-good chemicals and promotes an overall sense of well-being and elevates pain threshold and tolerance. 
  • Helps burn calories. Well, it’s not a replacement for the gym, but studies have shown laughing for 10-15 minutes a day can burn approximately 40 calories. 
  • May even help you live longer. Studies have shown that people with a strong sense of humour outlived those who don’t laugh as much. 

Laughter helps you stay mentally healthy

Laughter makes us feel good. And this positive feeling remains with us even after the laughter subsides. Even in the most difficult of times, a laugh, or simply a smile, can go a long way toward making us feel better.

  • Eases distressing emotions. Laughter counteracts feelings of sadness and anxiety; relaxes and reduces our stress and increases our energy level. Therefore, helping us to stay focused more easily.
  • Minimizes the anger in you. When you’re in a difficult situation or in a disagreement with other people, seeing the humour in it can help. Nothing diffuses anger and conflict faster than a shared laugh. Specifically, laughter defuses anger, conflict and self-blame. 
  • Helps in changing our perspective. Laughter allows us to process another point of view; moreover, we begin to see something in a more realistic, less threatening manner when we can laugh about it. Humour allows us to take things less seriously. 
  • Slows the release of cortisol, the stress hormone. Therefore, laughter increases our stress resilience
  • Draws people closer to each other. Bringing people together can have a profound effect on all aspects of our mental and emotional health
  • Enhances our cognitive functions, such as our memory, creative thinking and capabilities for problem-solving. 
  • Brings more joy, zest and fun in our life. This is self-explanatory!

Laughter brings people together and strengthens our relationships

More than jokes being with others makes us laugh. Researchers have found that we are 30 times more likely to laugh at something when we are with other people. 

  • Benefits our connections with others. In turn, stronger connections benefit our mental and emotional health. Laughter improves interpersonal relationships and brings people closer to each other, makes us more altruistic and builds group identity, solidarity and even cohesiveness.  
  • Helps in resolving disagreements, resentments and hurts between people. We become less defensive and less stuck in our own point of view. Laughter can even unite people during difficult times.  
  • Stimulates positive bonds. When friends or couples communicate using humour and playfulness, it fosters positive feelings, creating a special bond. This bond acts as a strong buffer against stress, sadness and anxiety. 
  • Laughter and humour make us more spontaneous and allows us to release our inhibitions without holding it back. 
  • Improves overall psychological well-being and quality of life.

A therapeutic technique

“Laughing is, and will always be, the best form of therapy.”

Although the above quote has been quite a popular saying, there has been ongoing research in this field for quite some time now. Psychiatrists, psychotherapists and other mental health professionals have been using humour and laughter in their sessions to help patients cope or treat a variety of physical, mental and spiritual issues, in individual or group settings to aid the patient’s well-being. There seems to be something to the old saying “laughter is the best medicine”.

How to bring more laughter in your life

Infants begin smiling during the first weeks of life and laugh out loud within months of being born. As children, we used to laugh hundreds of times a day, but as adults, life tends to be more serious and laughter more infrequent. Here are some ways to start laughing more frequently:

  • Like laughter, smiling is contagious. Furthermore, it has a positive effect on us and on the people around us. Try smiling more often at colleagues, friends, and even people you meet briefly.
  • Practice gratitude. When we consciously reflect on what we’re thankful for, our state of mind improves. Therefore, keep a gratitude journal or make a list of things you’re grateful for.  
  • Spend time with people who make you laugh. 
  • Host a game night. Connecting with our friends around a board game is a great way to get the laughter started. 
  • Get a pet (or look at pictures of one). Have you ever noticed that spending time with a playful pet makes you laugh more? Sometimes, just looking at the expression on your pet’s face is enough to make you smile or laugh. If you don’t have a pet, visit someone else’s, or look at pictures of cute cats and dogs doing silly things.
  • Bring humour into your conversations. Ask people, “What’s the funniest thing that happened to you today? This week? In your life?”

In conclusion, it’s clear that laughter is good medicine for our physical and mental health. During the times of crisis, this can help you bring about a lot of positivity in our lives.  Enjoy some good humour, at the same time, empathise with the ongoing global adversities

Finally, make sure something tickles your funny bone today, and every day!

Note: If you have any health concerns for yourself or your family, you can now speak to top doctors online on our platform. You can also take the free COVID-19 self-assessment to know your risk of contracting coronavirus infection. In case you’re experiencing symptoms like sore throat, cough, fever, or breathing difficulty, get your symptoms assessed by top doctors on your phone on the MFine app.

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