One essential characteristic that helps us laugh is not taking ourselves too seriously. We’ve all known the classic tight-jawed sourpuss who takes everything with deathly seriousness and never laughs at anything. So not fun!
The act of laughing stimulates hormones called catecholamines, which in turn release the happy juice — endorphins. With endorphins surging through our bloodstream, we’re more apt to feel happy and relaxed. With each laugh, therefore, we’re relieving stress, reducing anxiety and increasing our stores of personal energy. All of these psychological and physiological results are wonderful tools in coping with illness, a hospital stay or even just a cranky co-worker.
Laughter is our birth-right. Infants begin smiling during the first weeks of life and laugh out loud within months of being born. The best thing however is that we can learn to laugh (more) at any stage of life. It’s a decision to bring more laughter to our lives. We don’t need a comedian at house, we just need to do it.
Laughter helps us to stay emotionally healthy and more balanced. Humour helps us to keep a positive, optimistic outlook through difficult situations, disappointments, and loss. And it gives a bit more perspective. It allows us to see situations in a more realistic, less threatening light. A humorous perspective creates vital psychological distance. This distancing helps us to avoid feeling overwhelmed. In fact, laughing at things that hurt can be cathartic and serve as a way for people to regain control over situations that left them feeling powerless.
Even though poor nights are serious issues with severe implications sometimes accepting life as it comes and finding humour (even dark) can help us get back on the right track. When we become overly worried and tense is the exact the moment when we lose the capability to catch sleep! Laughing more can relax our bodies and tensions and free ourselves to sleep.
More than just a respite from sadness and pain, laughter gives us the courage and strength to find new sources of meaning and hope. Even in the most difficult of times, a laugh–or even simply a smile–can go a long way toward making you feel better.
We can begin to find more laughter in various ways – it is up to us! We can stop by not acting so seriously, getting a pet, spending more time with friends with a good sense of humour, watching more comedies and fun TV, spending more time with kids among many other things.
Types of Laughter Therapy
- Laughter yoga – no jokes or props, simply making the noise of laughter until finally it does become funny. The sessions include breathing, ho-ho-ho-ing, and producing different laughs such as: one metre, silent, cocktail and lion.
- Laughter groups – jokes, funny props and videos that we laugh at. Participants learn how to laugh at themselves and to treat life less seriously as a way to reduce stress.
- Clown doctors – visit children in hospital. Clown doctors have professional training with the Humour Foundation in order to offer high level skills in the midst of serious hospitals and illness.
The end result of all of them is that participants laugh a lot, but one type sometimes appeals more than others. When laughter is spontaneous, and in response to something we think funny such as a joke, we get a better payoff. Working out the joke not only increases the happy hormones and endorphins streaming through our bodies, but is a sort of weight-lifting for the brain.
It doesn’t really matter how or why you laugh since the mind responds the same way, whether laughter is real or fake. So, when you feel less than fantastic, you can just go and stand in front of the mirror and smile idiotically at yourself. Keep doing it, and eventually, you’ll feel better.
Belly laughter is a serious physical workout. It uses most of your body, and provides good exercise for heart and lungs. It’s a great way to break down barriers; by the end of a session of laughter everyone is relaxed and good humoured, so communication and problem solving can be smoother.
Things to try out
Laughter yoga with John Cleese (~4 mins)
Laughter yoga steps (~1.30 mins)
Laughing yoga (1.30 mins)