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As I was scrolling through Facebook, I came across a meme that said, “Laughter is like a windshield wiper, it doesn’t stop the rain but allows us to keep going.” I had not thought of laughter like that, but I recently found this saying to be accurate.
Life is well, unpredictable. Sometimes you laugh your way through the day because there were many joyous or humorous events. Other times if you did not laugh at the obstacles thrown at you, you would cry. Why does laughter have a healing property? And if laughter is the best medicine, why don’t we laugh more?
Laughter therapy is not new, in fact, it has been unofficially in practice for centuries. However, in the past 70 years more research has been focused on the use of laughter to help relieve pain, stress, and anxiety and improve a person’s sense of overall well-being. Researchers have found laughter may significantly increase a person’s level of hope. The hope the person felt helped reduce the severity of the stressors in their life.
Biologically, the act of laughter increases your oxygen levels, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases endorphins, or happy juice, released by your brain. This results in a good, tranquil feeling that soothes tension and aids in muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce the physical symptoms of stress.
Spontaneous laughter, also known as genuine laughter, in addition to psychological benefits, has been linked to increase tolerance of pain in both adults and children. Self-induced, or simulated laughter, like that practiced in Laughter Yoga, has shown decreases in blood pressure, cortisol levels, depressive symptoms, and an increase in the perception of life satisfaction.
So how can you increase your daily dose of laughter?
The Mayo Clinic suggests you can try:
- Put humor on your horizon. Find a few simple items, such as photos, greeting cards, or comic strips, that make you chuckle. Then hang them up at home or in your office. Keep funny movies, books, magazines, or comedy videos on hand for when you need an added humor boost. Look online at joke websites. Go to a comedy club.
- Laugh and the world laughs with you. 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.
- Consider trying laughter yoga. In laughter yoga, people practice laughter as a group. Laughter is forced at first, but it can soon turn into spontaneous laughter.
- Share a laugh. 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.
- Knock, knock. Browse through your local bookstore or library’s selection of joke books and add a few jokes to your list that you can share with friends.
Your challenge is to pick a way to incorporate laughter into your daily life. You just might find, like a wiper blade, it does not stop the rain, but it can make the journey much more enjoyable.
Written by: Dr. Roseanne E. Scammahorn, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Darke County
Reviewed by: Patrice Powers-Barker, CFLE, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Lucas County
Dexter, L., Brook, K. & Frates, E. (2016). The Laughter Prescription. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicate. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6125057/
Texas A&M University. “Humor Can Increase Hope, Research Shows.” ScienceDaily. Feb. 11, 2005. (June 1, 2009) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/02/050211095658.htm
The Mayo Clinic. (2019, April 5). Stress relief from laughter? It’s no joke. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456
University of California – Los Angeles.(2009, June 1). Watching Funny Shows Helps Children Tolerate Pain Longer, Study Finds. ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071024100905.htm