The healing power of humor
Anyone who has ever doubled over laughing after hearing a joke or seeing something funny knows that it feels good to let go and laugh until you cry. Science shows that there’s good reason for the feel-good sensation you experience after a good gut buster. In fact, according to PsychCentral, humor can help heal and protect our bodies and minds in several important ways:1
- Combats fear: Humor has a way of helping you change your perspective when you’re in situation that’s fearful by putting some emotional distance between what you’re afraid of and your reaction to it. It allows your brain to take a breather and enjoy something for a few precious moments.
- Relaxes your body: Your body is an engine, and humor can help the autonomic nervous system tone down a bit, which takes it off high gear and allows your heart to relax.
- Boosts your immune system: In a study, two hormones (beta-endorphins which alleviate depression and HGH which helps with immunity) increased when participants merely anticipated watching a humorous video.
- Reduces stress: In addition to boosting the immune system, laughter reduces the levels of three stress hormones: cortisol, epinephrine and dopac.
- Relieves pain: Laughter triggers the pituitary gland to release endorphins, which are a natural painkiller.
Life can be challenging. It’s not always easy to look on the bright side or to find the humour during difficult times or in stressful situations, but whenever possible attempt to infuse your life with joy and laughter.
- Keep the funny nearby. Don’t worry what others think – keep funny cartoons, silly family photos and other things that bring a smile to your lips and a chuckle to your throat in your workspace where you can see them all the time.
- Read humorous books. Lose yourself in some funny fiction. For more inspiration check out Barnes and Noble’s list of the 50 funniest books ever written.
- Listen to things that make you laugh. Dig out those old vinyl comedy albums or check out online podcasts, like the ones featured in Make Use Of’s list of 10 podcasts guaranteed to make you laugh out loud.
- Watch things that make you giggle. Maybe it’s online cat videos, Cheers reruns or old Three Stooges Whatever it is that gives you the giggles, watch it as often as you can. Check out the DVDs your local library has that you can borrow, or ask friends and family members to loan you movies that make you smile.
- Laugh together. Laughter is contagious, so surround yourself with those who enjoy the same things that you do and laugh together! Have a funny movie marathon, go watch a stand-up comedian together, or simply sit around and tell funny stories.
- Surround yourself with upbeat people. Sometimes it’s impossible to avoid negative people, but as much as possible hang out with friends and family members who are positive and happy. It’s much easier to feel happy when you’re with someone who is happy too.
You have the power to change your world and infuse it with joy that can help sustain you during darker times. As Allen Klein once said, “Your attitude is like a box of crayons that color your world. Constantly color your picture gray, and your picture will always be bleak. Try adding some bright colors to the picture by including humor, and your picture begins to lighten up.”
If you are struggling with feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, or you’re feeling depressed and have difficulty enjoying things you used to find pleasurable, it’s worth scheduling a visit to your doctor to chat about how you’re feeling. There’s no shame in needing a little extra help every now and then.
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