The saying ‘laughter is the best medicine’ has never been more appropriate. Not only does laughter bring people together, but it can also trigger healthy physical and emotional changes in the body. Who hasn’t felt their spirits lift when they’ve found something amusing? Whether it’s as simple as belly laughing at a joke that you’ve heard many times but still hits in just the right spot – or even just smiling and feeling warm as you remember a fond memory.
Laughter does more than just provide a break from difficult times; it can also provide courage, strength, and hope. It’s often ignored as a way of improving mental and physical health, but there are many ways that it can do so.
Below, we’ll explore some of the ways laughter and humour can help with improving mental and physical health, and how you can introduce more of it into your life.
The benefits of humour and laughing...
We all know that laughter feels good, but the benefits of it go far beyond this. Science tells us that laughter can…
Relax the entire body. A hearty laugh can help to relieve physical tension and stress for around 45 minutes at a time.
Help you live longer. A Norwegian study found that those with a strong sense of humour lived longer than those who didn’t.
Boost your immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones (such as cortisol) and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies – all of which improve your resistance to disease.
Trigger the release of endorphins (which are the body’s feel-good chemicals). Endorphins can increase feelings of well-being and, for a short time, relieve pain.
Improve the function of blood vessels, and increase blood flow around the body. This can help to protect against heart disease and stroke.
Burn calories. While laughing isn’t going to replace regular exercise, a study found that laughing for 15 minutes a day can burn approximately 40 calories, which can help a person lose 1lbs–4lbs over a period of a year.
Ward off negative emotions. When you laugh in response to something that’s really tickled you, it’s more difficult to feel angry, anxious or sad.
Provide a positive and optimistic outlook during difficult times, including disappointments and loss. Even in our lowest moments, laughter can help to make things seem a little less dark.
Shift perspectives. Laughter can allow you to see situations in a less threatening light – one that’s probably more realistic than the worst-case scenarios we often conjure up in our minds.
Help you to be less defensive. The sense of wellbeing we feel when we laugh can help us to forget criticisms, doubts, judgments, and resentments.
Release inhibitions in a positive way. Laughter can relieve fears by making us feel more carefree, which can give us the courage to try new things and step outside of our comfort zones.
Help you to express your true feelings by letting them rise to the surface. Laughter can be a gateway to the release of other emotions we might have been suppressing. It’s not uncommon for someone to laugh hysterically, only for their laughter to turn into sad tears as their other emotions start to come through.
Improve memory. Humour and laughter can assist with memory retention. Research has found that information has a greater chance of being both remembered and shared if the material makes the person who is studying it laugh.
Diffuse anger and conflict – whether it’s with friends, family or at work. Seeing the funny side of a situation can put problems into perspective, and allow you to move forward from confrontation without bitterness or resentment.
Strengthen relationships. Sharing laughter can help to build strong and lasting relationships, and to keep them fresh and exciting. It can also help to unite people during difficult times.
Improve sleep by helping you feel content and balanced. Laughter decreases stress hormones, relaxes your muscles, and stimulates the release of feel-good hormones, such as oxytocin and serotonin. If you can have a good laugh before you settle down for the night, then you might stand a better chance at having an uninterrupted night’s sleep.
Break the ice. Humour can be used to help people relax into social situations, and pave the way for a better discussion. Sharing a joke can also act as a conversation starter, and might make someone’s day.
9 tips to help you laugh more
Understanding the positives that humour and laughing can bring is one thing – but you might also be wondering how you can bring more of it into your own life.
We hope the following 9 tips will help to bring some light and laughter to your day.
1. Avoid becoming fixated on the negative
It’s all too easy to focus on the negative elements of life, like news stories, encounters with negative people, and conversations that have made you feel unhappy. But, it’s possible to see the lighter side of life by accepting that there’s much beyond your control – like people’s behaviour – that you can’t change. This acceptance can not only help you to let go of negativity and worry, but it can give you more headspace to focus on what you can control, and on the positives in your life.
A good place to start when trying to break free of negativity and find a more positive path is to make a list of all the things that you’re most grateful for. Try to look at the list daily or weekly, and add to it as often as you can.
2. Start with a smile
If laughter isn’t something that comes naturally, or you don’t feel as though you have much to laugh about right now, then why not start with a smile? Smiling can still make you feel good and, like laughter, is contagious.
Rather than looking down when you’re out in public, try to smile at people around you – whether you’re out walking, at work or shopping. This can not only help you to feel more positive but can make others around you feel good too.
3. Listen to Laughies
According to research from the University of Derby, recording a ‘Laughie’ can be a great way to help introduce humour and laughter into your life.
The Laughie is a recording of your own laughter, which you then play back to yourself, prompting you to laugh. It’s suggested that you use the Laughie technique whenever you have a spare moment, whether you’re on your own or with other people – whatever works best for you. There’s also no right or wrong place or way to listen to or record the Laughie.
You could do it while sitting or standing, moving around, or even when you’re in the car. However, it’s said that the best results for the Laughie are achieved when the laugh recording sounds natural, and when it’s listened to for at least a minute a day.
4. Learn to laugh at yourself
Rather than beating yourself up about your own mistakes and shortcomings, try to laugh at them instead. Learning to laugh at yourself isn’t always easy, but it does have a positive impact. It can help you to overcome feelings of embarrassment and embrace your imperfections.
It can also encourage you to take yourself less seriously, which can make life much more fun. We’re more likely to try new things and grab life with two hands if we’re prepared to laugh off the outcome – whether good or bad.
5. Watch comedy movies or TV shows
You can create opportunities to laugh by watching funny TV shows or movies. For some inspiration, you might want to check out this list of The 25 Best British Comedy Movies of All Time from Complex, or The Definitive Guide to British Comedy TV Since Fawlty Towers from Vulture.
There are also amusing articles and videos on the internet that are quite easy to find – YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok have plenty. Books can be full of humour too; Amazon has lots of options.
Humour can be something that’s very personal, so it can take some trial and error to identify what sort of things really get you laughing. Remember, that it’s not weird if someone else finds something funny and you don’t – you just have a different sense of humour, and that’s okay.
6. Look for humour - even in negative situations
Instead of grumbling about bad situations, try to look for humour in them. When something negative happens, if possible make it into a humorous anecdote that will make other people laugh. It can provide some light relief for everyone involved.
7. Make time to laugh daily
Try to make time to laugh every day by including it as part of your routine, as you do lunch or exercise.
Laughter doesn’t always have to be connected to a spontaneous You’ve Been Framed moment – you can also schedule time in your day (as little as 10-15 minutes will do) to do something that you find amusing. This could be looking at funny videos or listening to an amusing podcast. The more you are able to laugh, the less effort it will be.
8. Embrace your inner child
If you want to connect with your playful side, then why not reflect on your childhood and see if there are things that you enjoyed doing then that you can do as an adult? Colouring pictures or flying a kite for example.
Plus, if you have grandchildren or other children in your life, then why not spend some more time with them? Children are experts at playing, not taking life too seriously, and laughing at the simplest of things, all of which can be infectious.
9. Try laughter yoga
Consider taking up laughter yoga. Laughter Yoga is a mix of breathing techniques taken from Yoga and laughing exercises. It’s based on the idea that if you’re prepared to laugh, you’ll experience the psychological and physiological advantages that come with it. The best way to practice laughter yoga is in a group so that eye contact can be made because this makes laughter come much more naturally.
If you’re interested in finding out more about laughter yoga or giving it a go, then it’s worth taking a look at this list of clubs here. Or to see how it works, have a watch of the video below which shows This Morning hosts Phil and Holly having a go themselves.
Having fun and laughing is really important for our mental and physical health. So try to do whatever you can to make yourself laugh; particularly during difficult times. Even the anticipation of laughter can have a positive effect.
Whether it’s comedy shows, family and friends, or funny videos, memes or songs that make you laugh – try to turn to them as often as you can. Laughter and smiles aren’t just fleeting moments of happiness, they’re coping mechanisms for anxiety, fear, and grief.
Not only that, but by laughing and seeing humour wherever you can, you’ll be activating many other health-related benefits that we’ve explored above.
Having humour in your life is also important when it comes to having empathy and compassion. Incorporating fun into the life of everyone should be a priority if they seek better health and happiness. As the saying goes, ‘laughter is the best medicine’ and is of benefit to not only the individual but to those around them.
Do you agree that laughter is the best medicine? What made you laugh today? Or do you have something to say that could make someone else laugh? Join the conversation on the community forum, or leave a comment below.