It’s supposed to be the best medicine, but what is it about laughter that’s so good for you?
Your good friends endorphins, the happy hormone released in your brain when you exercise, are also released when you have a good ol’ belly laugh. This leads to feelings of “pleasure and a sense of well being,” according to Harvard University.
That’s pretty straight forward. But what really happens when you find something funny is a complex series of reactions in your brain, according to the university in their article “Humour, Laughter, and those Aha Moments.” The frontal lobe processes the information, the supplementary motor area is engaged in the movements associated with laughter. The nucleus accumbens, which is related to the reward circuit of your brain, assesses the pleasure of what’s happening and the reward of the punchline. Next, your heart rate goes up, you laugh, and your brain releases the “feel good” neurotransmitters: dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins.
Physically, laughing can:
• Boost your immune system
• Lower stress hormones
• Decrease feelings of pain
• Relax your muscles
• Help prevent heart disease
But there are also the mental benefits. Psychologically, laughing can ease anxiety and fear while relieving stress and overall improving your mood.
More than a health benefit, the social aspect of laughing has played a huge role in human interaction since before we were able to speak. A laugh is a way of saying that it’s safe to approach someone. Some scientists also believe that laughter used to come about as a “shared expressions of relief marking the passing of danger,” according to Harvard.
• Helps us to bond with others
• Attracts people to us
• Defuses tension and conflict
• Strengthens teamwork
• Builds personal relationships
It’s clear why laughter is also an important aspect of a well-functioning workplace—and we love to laugh at Rocky. Hundreds of bar soaps with the wrong label on them? We laugh it off and get back to work. Studies show that laughter creates resilience, which means that when we laugh in the face of danger (or small mistakes) we’re becoming stronger and healthier as people.
Here are some tips to get laughing:
• An easy one: throw on a funny movie or TV show.
• Find a laughter yoga class.
• Try and laugh—without smiling. Trust us.
• Start laughing! This is an old actor’s trick. If you start to fake laugh, it will induce real laughter.
• Remember to laugh at yourself. Did you trip and drop something? Walk into a sparkly clean glass door? That’s hilarious. Have a good laugh.
• Did you see a hilarious meme that cracked you up? Save it in a note on your phone to reference when you’re feeling down.
Remember, laughing at your own expense is fun. Laughing at someone else’s expense is not so fun. That kind of laughter isn’t going to benefit your health in the short or long term. Now go get laughing!
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