“A day without laughter is a day wasted.” – Charlie Chaplin
When was the last time that you had a good, hearty laugh?
Did it happen while sharing an inside joke with a dear friend or while watching a funny sitcom or reading the newspaper funnies?
No matter what the circumstances were, it most likely left you feeling jovial and elated. During those few moments, you forgot about all your worries and cares and the world looked just a bit brighter. It may have also strengthened your connection with whomever you shared your laughs with and created a warm and convivial atmosphere.
Our personal experiences are proof of the undeniable feel-good effect of laughter. It’s led many people to believe that laughter is, in fact, the best medicine, and especially effective in diffusing tense and distressful situations. But what exactly is laughter and what gives it such potent healing powers?
Laughter is a natural response that we have to any stimuli such as images, sensations, sounds or thoughts that we find funny. Our higher brain decodes the stimuli and once it understands the humor, our emotional system releases a pleasure-inducing chemical that promotes happiness. Finally, our motor function causes us to react by laughing, smiling or tearing up. Our physical response to laughter is pretty quick!
Even though we have this natural form of joy easily available to us, we don’t laugh as much as we need to. Just walk down a busy street in any big city and what you’ll witness is a sea of serious or worried expressions on commuters darting from point A to point B. As a society, it seems like we’ve allowed ourselves to get bogged down by the grueling demands of life and drown in our anxieties.
Life is without a doubt serious business, but I believe that we can be better at coping with the seriousness of it all if we traveled lighter. In other words, things would seem more doable if we could lighten up and be willing to see the humor in our experiences. Doing so will instantly shift our energy and make us feel productive and enthusiastic about dealing with anything that may come our way.
I admit that I gravitate more towards the serious side of life. As a writer who focuses on deep and weighty topics, I can get stuck in this somber realm if I’m not careful. That’s why I make a conscious effort to breakaway and disconnect from thinking about heavy issues to engage in fun, leisurely pursuits.
I do this by taking time out to watch funny sitcoms, movies, stand-up comedy shows, and spending time with people who help me appreciate the fun aspects of life. You might prefer other kinds of activities such playing sports or games. No matter what you choose, make sure that it genuinely amuses you.
Finding something to laugh about not only lightens your mental load and makes you feel good in the moment, it actually induces physical changes in your body. Science has shown that laughter benefits us on a physiological level by lowering blood pressure, improving heart health, lowering stress hormone levels, boosting immunity, and triggering the release of endorphins (awesome, feel-good hormones!).
Given the many benefits of laughter, the medical community has developed a healing modality known as laughter therapy. This practice aims to relieve physical and emotional stress or discomfort by using the natural physiological process of laughter. It often combines laughter and movement to boost heart rate, as in the case of laughter yoga. In fact, 10-15 minutes of laughter can burn as much as 50 calories!
Laughter is also an excellent social lubricant that helps us connect better with others. It’s a universal language that can be understood, no matter where you go on the planet, and it can melt down any tensions or differences. I believe the humor is a great cross-cultural bridge, which can be used to gain mutual understanding and cooperation to deal with important world issues that need to be tackled.
Of course, our cultural upbringing and family history play a major role is what we consider to be funny and how much we allow ourselves to indulge in humor. People from certain cultures (like Northern Europeans) are considered to be more serious and stoic than other cultures (like Latins). Also, some individuals prefer a more dry sense of humor, while others prefer a more slapstick genre.
Regardless of your preferences for comedy, laughter will always be one of your core human needs. Without enough of it in our life, we can wither like a flower in a cold, dark and harsh winter. If you feel restricted or unable to engage in laughter, you might want to examine your existing beliefs and do some work with your inner critic. If that’s not enough, consider working with a therapist for deeper insights.
Humor is undoubtedly one of the most potent tools for instantly shifting us from a place of gloom and doom towards a more positive one. Every day, set an intention to see the world through the lens of love and tackle any resistance or fears that may come up in the process of doing this.
Need to add more humor into your life? Here are some effective ways to bring a smile to your face:
- Reflect on your past experience of humor: Your memories are one of the best sources of laughter because you can gain instant access to the pleasant emotions you had in those past experiences. These memories could be from any age and circumstances. Whenever I do this exercise, I’m enveloped in warmth and sometimes even giggle a little. Remembering any fond memory allows you to relive those special moments. You could magnify your joy by reminiscing about good times with friends and family.
- Commit to doing the things that make you laugh: Everyone has different preferences for humor. What you find funny might not amuse others at all. For example, I don’t like comedians that swear a lot and crack perverted jokes. I prefer a more intelligent genre of comedy, based on keen observation of human idiosyncrasies. Figure out what makes you laugh by reflecting on previous experiences that amused you. Once you’re clear about that, make time during your day to engage in those activities. You can use laughter as a tool to deal with stress or to give you a boost in energy when you’re feeling down.
- Hang out with funny people: If you’ve ever had the delightful experience of being around someone with a great sense of humor, you’ll know how refreshing it is to be in the presence of someone like that. These people have a natural knack of making others laugh, like an impromptu comedian doing a stand-up comedy routine. These are the class clowns who just like to have a good time and spread good vibes around them. It’s important that they have the sensibility to not to use others as targets for their jokes, and that they avoid joking during inappropriate times. It’s not easy to come across these people but you could probably increase your chances of meeting them at fun-oriented events, workshops and venues.
- Find humor in your life, no matter how tough things get: It’s true that life is full of ups and downs and we can’t always find a reason to laugh, especially when we’re in the midst of a crisis, tragedy or an immense loss. Of course, we need to honor our sadness and process our emotions in a healthy way, but once we do, we must commit to raising our vibration, and the simplest way to do that is through laughter. If we try, we can find a humorous angle in almost every facet of life. Comedians are brilliant in doing this. They can take an ordinary observation and help us see it from their comical point of view.
You’re here for a brief, cosmic stint, and during that time, you have the opportunity to create and live some wonderful life experiences, many of which will involve humor – so don’t miss out on those opportunities! Let the joys and wonder of laughter pervade almost every precious moment of your life.
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: Do you believe that laughter is the best medicine? Do you have any fun experiences that reflect on this statement?