Laughter as medicine

April 18, 2016 | by Jonathan Gibson, M.D.

Your jaw is tight, your back hurts and you’ve got a headache. You’re not sick, you’re stressed out.

Ongoing mental stress can actually damage your physical health, setting you up for heart disease and memory loss, among other ailments.

But there are ways to loosen the grip stress can have on your body. Laughter is one of them.

A good laugh can be a crucial relaxation technique when you’re really stressed.  And, it’s interesting to note, what makes you healthier is not the act of laughing as much as the side effects.

Think about a time you were truly cracking up about something. At that moment, were you thinking about your stressful day at work? When something strikes us as funny, we tend to stay in the moment, which benefits our mental health and relieves stress.

You breathe easier when you laugh. You relax a bit. Tension melts. When you’re relaxed, your blood pressure is lower. You sleep easier. Do you see the chain reaction?

Laugh hard enough and it might even feel like exercise!

Remember, you can’t fake it and get the same results. Forcing a laugh isn’t relaxing or fun, is it? It has to be genuine.

So how do you build more laughter into your life? The Mayo Clinic offers some great suggestions on its website:

  • Surround yourself with things you think are funny. Find a few simple items, such as photos or comic strips that make you chuckle. Then hang them up at home or in your office. Keep funny movies or comedy albums on hand for when you need an added humor boost.
  • Don’t take yourself so seriously. Find a way to laugh about your own situations and watch your stress begin to fade away. Even if it feels forced at first, practice laughing. It does your body good.
  • Hang out with funny friends. Make it a habit to spend time with friends who make you laugh. And then return the favor by sharing funny stories or jokes with those around you.
  • Research! Browse through your local bookstore or library's selection of joke books and get a few new jokes in your repertoire you can share with friends.

How do you feel after a good chuckle? Share how laughter helps you in the comments!

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