How Often Do You Laugh and What Are the Health Benefits of Laughing?
Why Is It Healthy to Laugh? Do You Feel Like You Laugh Enough Every Day?
You have certainly heard the expression a million times, “Laughter is the best medicine”. Of course, that is like saying that upward is the best trajectory. Why is that so?? Prove it. So then, what are the health benefits of laughing and having a sense of humor? How often do you laugh? Exactly why is it healthy to laugh, and what does it look like if you are someone who laughs regularly, rather than defaulting to misery and cynicism when things look dark? And why do people who don’t laugh seem to have a plethora of health issues?
I personally have found over the years that when things get really dark, there comes a point when laughter just hits me. I catch a glimpse of a different reality, in a sense. It is just a quick flash, usually, but now I have the memory of that to refer to, the next time I am on the verge of being overwhelmed.
I am not much of a preacher. At least not with words. I think that is a vain pursuit, if you don’t have some “good fruit on your tree”, or evidence that your faith has produced something good in you. If you do, there should be little need for words to show others that you might be onto something good.
But I can tell you, most assuredly, that I would be incapable of maintaining a sense of humor in these times without the perspective on things that I was never able to see before I had the faith that makes it evident to me that there is something going on above all of the apparent chaos and mayhem that seems to have the power and potential to overwhelm at any moment.
So, this article will be written from the standpoint of a person of faith in something bigger than him, without which I fully believe I would self-destruct.
How often do you laugh, these days?
If you are not a person of faith, please keep reading. It doesn’t mean that you can’t practice laughter and cultivate a sense of humor in the midst of dark times. Like most things, it takes practice, and in this case, the more we practice, the better chance we have of not letting the darkness drag us into a vortex of despond that it can be next to impossible to get out of.
And, of course, laughter is very beneficial to both our mental and physical health, which is likely why you are here, so let’s get into it, yeah?
What Are the Health Benefits of Laughing and Why It Is Healthy to Laugh
I will break it down into both the physical and the mental health benefits of laughing, and why it is healthy to laugh regularly for both mind and body health. Then we will learn how to cultivate and develop a sense of humor in humorless times, and how to maintain a sense of humor and make it habitual.
Everyone likely has some inkling that laughter is beneficial to overall health, but I would estimate that fewer people realize the physical health benefits of laughing and maintaining a sense of humor, compared to the perhaps more obvious mental health benefits of laughter. So let’s start there.
Ironically, I think I will try to keep this fairly serious. Just to be weird…? I will save my humor reserves for talking about disease and deception and misconception, as per usual. Ah, crap! I’m off to a bad start…
The Mental Health Benefits of Laughter
The mental health benefits of laughter, as mentioned, might seem quite obvious. At least some of them. So I will just list them, and we will move on. Here are a few reasons to learn to laugh for the sake of your mental health, even when it doesn’t seem there is anything to laugh about:
- laughter is also good for the people around you.
- sharing a laugh with someone connects you on a profound level, and strengthens you both, fortifying your relationship and providing a stronger immunity to future attacks on your joy, which is your birthright! I believe that marriages without laughter are doomed.
- laughter is like a stress-release valve, built in to most of our souls. It keeps us from being overwhelmed by adversity, which can lead to further mental stresses, which will then begin to manifest in the physical. Laughter releases serotonin in the brain.
- laughing activates the frontal lobe of our brain, bringing us into the “now”, freeing us from bondage to past pains and memories which seek to hold us there and rob us of a true experience of what is going on in the present, and being able to enjoy and appreciate it.
- laughing stimulates creativity, which everyone was born with.
- humor connects you with God, who is the author of humor, and actually holds the bar pretty high, in that regard. Don’t believe me? I will likely be focusing on this in the future.
- laughter causes you to take in adequate amounts of oxygen, if you don’t know how to breathe properly (many people don’t, believe it or not).
Look at this diagram from NCBI:
The Physical Health Benefits of Laughter
Here’s where it gets pretty cool. Some physical health benefits of laughter are as follows:
- laughter energizes your body, thus helping to burn calories. Not to downplay the fact itself, that having more energy is nice, regardless of the fact that laughter helps with weight loss.
- laughter reduces stress that leads to high blood pressure, and all of the potential harms that come from it. Study on the Effect of Humor Therapy on Blood Pressure of Patients Undergoing Hemodialysis
- laughter increases antibodies that strengthen your immune system.
- laughter fights asthma.
- laughing increases endorphins and neurotransmitters in the brain that alleviate stress and actually reduce pain.
- laughter causes us to sleep better, which ultimately benefits physical health, as well as mental, obviously.
- laughing has anti-inflammatory effects in the body, which are the root of nearly all physical ailments, particularly those pertaining to heart health and proper blood circulation.
- laughter keeps you young, both physically and otherwise. Laughing exercises facial muscles and stomach muscles, in particular, in addition to increasing energy and metabolism.
The Side Effects of Too Much Laughter
Just kidding. There aren’t any.
In fact, if you like, you can read my other article on laughter, about the side effects of not laughing, or watch a video I made, based on that article, called, funnily enough, Side Effects of Not Laughing – Health Benefits of Laughing“, which led to this expansion on the topic.
How to Cultivate and Develop a Sense of Humor In Humorless Times
Well, nothing is actually ever humorless, if you are bent like I am (I mean that in at least two senses of the word). It is just a matter of becoming keen to the humor in things that we wouldn’t normally expect humor to be.
Why do you think people have an odd tendency to laugh at funerals (the word “funeral” is funny in itself, when you look at it)? It is not that someone dying is funny. But the formality of certain events can cause a sense of absurdity to gurgle within us. In such sullen situations, we are seeing the bigger picture of life that I was talking about, earlier. And things can suddenly strike you that you wouldn’t normally see as being absurd, or amusing, despite the sorrow you are feeling.
Or it could just be nerves. The nervous laughter that can become harder to stifle in a somber and serious situation, because you know how inappropriate it would be. That is human nature, and I love that we were made that way!
As for learning how to cultivate and develop a sense of humor, it is just like gardening. You nurture and stimulate the seeds that you have, and don’t neglect to do so until it can grow to a point that it takes care of itself, or becomes somewhat automatic. I guess you could use the metaphor of raising offspring, as well. Except you don’t want it to eventually get out of your house. It will serve you immensely, all of your life.
How often do you laugh wholeheartedly?
Developing a sense of humor and maintaining it could also be likened to working out muscles. If your muscles are weak, you are vulnerable. When something bigger than you threatens you, sometimes all you can do is laugh, at some point. And you discover laughter to be like a weapon that you can use to fight things that would try to destroy you, by wounding your joy, which happens to be another weapon, but I’ll save that for another time.
The more calling on humor within us becomes natural, the more we find that the things we used to get so upset about weren’t half as bad as we thought, and we develop a bigger perspective on the human condition and the way things are.
I hate to have to say it, but practice and deliberation are essential for discovering the vast scope of importance in developing and maintaining a sense of humor. It is work.
I will confess that I have become like the sculptor, who, asked about how he sculpted such a beautiful horse, responded, “I just looked at the chunk of rock and set about removing everything that didn’t look like a horse”.
I will sometimes look at a situation and resolve to removing everything that isn’t funny about it. Then, once I have seen the humor in it, I will look at the situation again and have a different understanding of it. And nine times out of ten it is a more accurate picture.
At any rate, I hope I have adequately shown why it is important to laugh, and to keep laughing until it becomes normal–for the benefit of both physical and mental wellbeing, as well as that of those around us, and the success and intimacy of our closest relationships. When you have conditioned yourself to default to negativity whenever something doesn’t work out like you thought, the bad stuff just seems to compound, seeming worse and worse than it is. You can even start to see negativity where it doesn’t even exist. And this leads to poor overall health.
Don’t give it that!
Please leave your comments and / or any personal insights you may have, below. And let us know how often you laugh on an average day. And how often do you laugh wholeheartedly, despite these dark times? Do you feel like you laugh enough every day?