Laughter to Relieve Stress
Shared by Dr. Justin Thompson
Usually, when discussing health, we stay serious in our demeanor and approach. Of course, this has its time in place in every interaction. Too often, we get caught up in the seriousness of life. This can lead to increased stress not only in our mind, but bodies’ as well. This further enhances our worries, aches and pains. One small, silly gesture has been shown to have effects far greater than we realize. When we say ‘laughter is the best medicine’, there is some truth to that! I will highlight some of the stress relieving and physical health benefits that laughter provides.
Laughter – doing it or observing it – activates multiple regions of the brain: the motor cortex, which controls muscles; the frontal lobe, which helps you understand context; and the limbic system, which modulates positive emotions. Turning all these circuits on strengthens neural connections and helps a healthy brain coordinate its activity. By activating the neural pathways of emotions like joy, laughter can improve your mood and make your physical and emotional response to stress less intense. For example, laughing may help control brain levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, similar to what antidepressants do. By minimizing your brain’s responses to threats, it limits the release of neurotransmitters and hormones like cortisol that can wear down your cardiovascular, metabolic and immune systems over time. Psychologists measured the frequency and intensity of 41 people’s laughter over two weeks, along with their ratings of physical and mental stress. They found that the more laughter experienced, the lower the reported stress. Whether the instances of laughter were strong, medium or weak in intensity didn’t matter.
Incorporating more laughter into your life doesn’t require any specialized equipment or a particular location. It’s a free, accessible, and enjoyable activity that can be integrated seamlessly. Watch a comedy movie, share funny stories with friends, attend a comedy show or class, make silly jokes with your partner, or simply let go of inhibitions and allow yourself to laugh out loud.
In a world that often emphasizes the serious aspects of life, it’s crucial to recognize and embrace the immense power of laughter. Its ability to heal, uplift, and transform makes it an invaluable tool for cultivating holistic well-being. So, let the echoes of laughter reverberate through your days, bringing joy to your soul and vitality to your body.
Eloise A Stark and others, The Power of Smiling: The Adult Brain Networks Underlying Learned Infant Emotionality, Cerebral Cortex, Volume 30, Issue 4, April 2020, Pages 2019–2029, https://doi.org/10.1093/cercor/bhz219
F.N. Gonot-Schoupinsky, G. Garip, Laughter and humour interventions for well-being in older adults: A systematic review and intervention classification, Complementary Therapies in Medicine,
Volume 38, 2018, Pages 85-91,ISSN 0965-2299
Hasan, H., Hasan, T.F. (2009). Laugh Yourself into a Healthier Person: A Cross Cultural Analysis of the Effects of Varying Levels of Laughter on Health. International Journal of Medical Sciences, 6(4), 200-211. https://doi.org/10.7150/ijms.6.200.
Zander-Schellenberg T, Collins IM, Miché M, Guttmann C, Lieb R, Wahl K (2020) Does laughing have a stress-buffering effect in daily life? An intensive longitudinal study. PLoS ONE 15(7): e0235851. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0235851
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