Written by Nicole Russom
With the Melbourne International Comedy Festival currently taking place, it got me thinking about the benefits of laughter for our wellbeing. As adults, we don’t laugh nearly as much as we did as children. Given the responsibilities of adult life, the everyday struggles such as managing finances, relationships, work and the like, it can be easy to get down on life. Listening to my 3 ½ month old nephew giggle for the very first time this week, it reminded me how amazing this natural response really is. Think about it, how do you feel when you laugh? I mean, really laugh. That deep, guttural laugh that comes from somewhere deep inside. The type that makes you cry until you can’t see, makes your stomach and cheeks hurt, that makes you think you might not ever be able to stop.
Do you feel positive? Uplifted? Joyous? Completely focused just on that moment? Who wouldn’t want to feel like that? In addition to the positive emotions we experience when laughing, laughter also induces a number of hormonal effects in our body which contribute to our wellbeing . Our levels of various stress hormones (such as cortisol, epinephrine and dopamine) decrease, and health enhancing hormones (including endorphins, neurotransmitters and antibodies) increase. Laughing also increases our blood flow and oxygen to our blood. The end result of this is that we feel more relaxed, are more resistant to disease, have improved mood and outlook in general.
Amazingly, even forced laughter can have positive effects. It may feel a bit ridiculous, especially at first, but the next time you’re having a difficult day or feeling stressed, try to make yourself laugh and see for yourself. Laughing meditation is also starting to take off, as a way to diffuse emotional and physical stress. But if all of this feels a little too unnatural for you, taking time out to watch a funny movie, share a laugh with friends, or go to a comedy show can go a long way to increasing your sense of wellbeing.
Have you ever noticed how laughter is contagious? How often have you started laughing just because someone else is? Laughing with others helps you to create an emotional connection and bond with them. We make it a point in the Psylutions office to have a laugh and joke with one another on a daily basis, in fact, you really need to have a good sense of humour to be able to work here, in particular, you need to be able to laugh at yourself! It’s a great way to help us deal with the everyday challenges and stressors we face, as well as helping us to feel more connected as a team.
Whilst laughter isn’t the be all and end all when it comes to wellbeing, it can definitely have a significant impact, and is such a simple and natural way to make yourself feel good.