Laughing for Mental Health: How Humour Can Heal

Posted by Naomi Rohr on

There’s no doubt about it, laughter feels good. There’s nothing quite like a little humour to lighten any situation, break the ice, and get you out of your own head. If you ask me, humour is the antidote to stress and pent-up anxiety and guess what? Scientists seem to agree, hurrah! 

Scientists have done the hard yards to collect a significant amount of data that demonstrates what laughter, humour, and smiling do for the mind and body. The results are impressive! Being an anxiety sufferer myself, I was thrilled to learn there is a proven, natural and free anxiety treatment out there. If you’re keen to lift your mood and find a little zen, read on.  

Physical Benefits of Laughter

Relaxes muscles strain and tension. A big belly laugh engages dozens of muscles that are contracted that are released. Believe it or not, a lot of stress manifests in the body by clenching and contracting muscles. This is one of the many reasons anxiety and stress can become physically exhausting and even cause muscle and body aches. Want to release that physical tension - laughter is just as effective as yoga. 

Humour boosts immunity. Laughter strengthens infection-fighting antibodies that improve your resistance to disease. Green juice and a giggle? Yes please! 

Laugh for heart health. Laughter expands and improves blood vessel function by increasing blood flow. When you’re laughing a lot, these tiny doses of heart health can help prevent cardiovascular disease and heart attacks. Another reason to get out and find the funny in life. 

Burn calories. That’s right, a few good jokes could burn up to 100 calories! It’s no gym replacement but a pretty decent physical payoff for taking a load off.

Live a longer and fuller life. Researchers in Norway ran multiple studies on a variety of groups, including disease and cancer patients, and the results were astounding. Those with a prominent sense of humour lived longer and more satisfactory lives than those who didn’t laugh as often. ‘Spose with my winning comedic skills I’ll be here for a long time then? Score!

The Link Between Laughing and Mental Health

Turns out “laughter is medicine” isn’t just a cheeky phrase your nanna says. Research shows laughter boosts endorphin levels for up to an hour. Which means if you laugh once an hour for 12 hours a day, your body will be filled with happy hormones for the whole day. 

Decrease anxiety and depression. By triggering the release of endorphins, the feel-good chemical, the brain can tripwire anxiety and symptoms of depression. Endorphins alleviate the flight or fight response (hello anxiety’s BFF) and trigger the parasympathetic nervous system helping you to get to that magical state of zen.

Alleviate stress and worry. Stress is often caused by the past while worry is negative anticipation of the future. One of the best things about laughter is, it brings you into the now aka mindfulness. When something is funny and causes a physical response--you are milking the present moment for all it’s worth and I’m ALL for it! 

Similar to meditating (although arguably more fun), laughter releases your mind from the maze of thoughts/feelings/emotions and ‘things’ it’s filled with. Basically, laughter is an antidote to overthinking and if you, my friend, are a fellow anxiety sufferer, would know all about overthinking and how damn exhausting it really is. 

Release anger and resentment. Who needs to be chocker block full on anger and resentment? It’s NOT a vibe. It blocks creativity and slows momentum. And, it can fester and eat away at you if you let it. Laughter and humour have the opposite effect. They lighten the load and provide energy. 

Obviously it’s not possible to let everything go (despite what Elsa says) but what you can do is accept, tick and flick those negative emotions away. 

Increase optimism and creativity. Laughter and humour heal more than the body and mind, they awaken the child-like spirit within us. The one that is hushed by “adulting” and all the responsibility that comes with it. Obviously we can’t sit in a playground giggling all day, however, you can balance the pressure of being an adult by embracing laughter and fun again. 

Relationship benefits of humour and Laughter

It’s no secret that comedy keeps people close. There is no common ground quite like a quality laugh with people you like. Not sure how it works? Read on. 

Spontaneous. When you share a sense of humour, you’re likely to encourage each other to get out of your heads, live life in the moment and release your inhibitions. Spontaneity isn’t given enough airtime in my humble opinion. 

Ditch Defensiveness. Relationship woes can make quality time feel stuffy. Laughter is a great way to blow right past the elephant in the room and remember what you enjoy about each other. 

Be Your Authentic Self. Your true self is loudest when you laugh. I don’t know about you but I’m drawn to people who genuinely don’t hold back in the moment. Snorts, cackles, weird fog horn laughs and cheeky little giggles are all welcome ‘round these parts. I can guarantee your authenticity will be met with a smile by anyone worth your time. Let it out!  

So my next question is, when was the last time you laughed? And I don’t mean the polite type. I mean laughed until a little bit of wee came out. If it was ages ago, make it a non-negotiable today. Your body and mind will give you a big thumbs up for it. 

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