In an average day, how many times do you laugh? I mean really laugh hard?
Probably not very much, right? I would argue that most don’t have a good belly laugh (you know, the type where you can’t stop and you stomach hurts after) more than once a week, if not once a month. This is sad.
As of late, all around us we see turmoil. The economy, the stock market, the job market, the housing market are all areas that bring us down on a daily basis. Turn on the news and the first fifteen minutes are flooded with items of death, tragedy, and our financial woes. If you’re not dramatically affected by these aspects of everyday life, certainly you know someone who is. It’s unavoidable and it’s stressful.
But there is something you can do to keep from succumbing. You can laugh. Laughter is the most powerful natural tool in relieving stress and helping a person cope with some of the muck life tends to throw at us.
How does laughter relieve stress?
There are several factors, and studies, which show us how well laughter works to relieve stress. According to the Mayo Clinic, the short-term effects of a good belly laugh include:
- Organ stimulation. When you laugh, you take in more oxygen which stimulates your heart, lungs, and muscles. In turn, more endorphins are released by your brain.
- Stress response activation. With a good belly laugh, your stress response is activated and then cooled down which increases your heart rate and blood pressure, leaving you feeling pleasantly relaxed.
- Stomachache relief. Increased blood flow to your organs can help smooth out digestion issues, which can be both a cause and symptom of stress.
Laughter does much more than simply providing a momentary boost. In the long-term, it has grand power in helping deal with stress in the following:
- Immune system. Pessimistic thoughts act like a giant funnel, bringing more stress into your body which is extremely harsh on your immune system. Optimistic thinking does just the opposite, releasing neuropeptides which combat stress and help you maintain a good line of defense against worse infirmities.
- Pain relief. The chemicals released by the body when you laugh act as natural painkillers, and over time the body can produce these easier when needed.
- Coping ability. Laughter can make dealing with difficult situations much easier (this is not to say that one should laugh at a death in the family) by helping lessen the time it takes to return to a normal state.
How do I laugh more?
Because everyone is different, there’s no magic potion that can make you laugh. But you can take some steps that will greatly increase your potential to laugh. Sharpening your funny bone might sound grisly, but it’s not as difficult as you might think. Try the following:
- Humor = Reality + Distance. Simply thinking about that which is around you every day in a different light can help you increase your chuckling ability (and the ability to help those around you laugh as well). Adding an element that’s far from reality can be a great way to add some humor.
- Laugh and the world laughs with you. That is, unless you just started World War III. First, start with laughing about your own situation. The more you can do this, the more your stress meter will fall.
- Positive thinking power. Never underestimate the power that positive thinking holds. Always try and look at situations with a cup-half-full mentality and you will be better prepared to find the humor within.
- Share a joke. Sharing a joke or two with colleagues is a great way to laugh, but be careful to also know your audience so that you don’t offend.
- Use your best judgment. Not much to detail here other than making sure that before you open your mouth, make sure you’re foot is not already on its way to fill the void!