The Beautiful Benefits Of Laughing, And Why You Should Laugh On Purpose Every Day.
Laughing on purpose is a valuable self-help tool that can increase your confidence, help you to deal with emotional challenges, and so much more.
It’s widely understood that laughter is possibly the best medicine - because most of us feel better after we’ve had a good laugh. There’s more to it than that though, as I’ll explain in a moment.
Three amazing points about laughter:
Laughing has terrific health and therapeutic benefits.
Even if you're just pretending to laugh, it will still do you good, as the mind and body can't tell the difference. You'll still get the same physiological and psychological benefits.
You don't have to have any particular sense of humour or anything funny to laugh about. You'll find that if you just start making laughter sounds - even in a half-hearted way - it'll become real laughter quite quickly.
Here’s some of the wonderful things that laughing can do for you:
Lifts low mood and is a natural painkiller.
Laughter triggers the release of endorphins and other feelgood hormones. These are released into the bloodstream straight away, and they also help to relieve pain.
The level of the stress hormone (cortisol) has been shown to drop after lengthy bouts of laughter. Laughing also loosens you up so that your muscles relax and physical tension is relieved. This can last for a while afterwards, so the more regularly you laugh, the less ongoing tenseness and stress you feel.
Boosts your immune system.
The levels of anti-viral and anti-infection cells increase, so you are more resistant to illness and disease. Research shows that the cells that fight cancer are increased too.
Provides you with aerobic exercise.
Laughing increases oxygen to the body and brain. This is because when you laugh for a few minutes, you take in great gulps of air in between laughs. This increase in oxygen helps you to focus and to feel more energised.
Increases circulation and protects your heart.
Laughing increases the flow of blood, and the function of your blood vessels is improved. Circulation to the digestive and lymphatic systems is increased, which helps to flush out toxins and waste - and also helps your skin to glow!
Burns up calories.
Over a period of time, regular laughing can help you to lose weight.
Encourages you to play.
Childlike playfulness is so important. If you think about little children playing, they are uninhibited, curious, spontaneous, creative and have a real sense of fun and freedom. Adults can learn so much from little children.
Embracing an attitude of childlike playfulness frees you up to be you. It enables you to tap in to inspiration, and be open to new possibilities. Playing can also help you to solve problems more effectively, as many studies have shown.
Increases self-esteem and confidence.
As you relax into laughter you have nothing to fear. There is no need to hold back as you start to trust that it’s ok to laugh out loud – especially when with others.
If this is an area that is very challenging for you, start by smiling more. This will soon turn into a giggle – especially when you are with other people, because laughing is so contagious! You’ll find your inhibitions will dissipate quickly – I have seen this happen time and time again.
Laughter brings people together because it’s fun, funny, infectious and inviting. You’re more likely to laugh when around others than when you are on your own – although this doesn’t have to be the case, as I’ll discuss later.
But it is a wonderful thing to share. There’s something about that connection, that twinkle in the eye that is so affirming - and magical, when it turns into a giggle! A bond is created between you which is positive, and which can strengthen. Therefore, laughing together creates friendships.
Heals and strengthens personal relationships.
Laughing with someone you know, like or love can diffuse hidden tensions and improve the communication between you.
It’s a subtle thing, because it changes the atmosphere between you in a positive way. It softens and often dissipates smouldering, fiery or dark energy, and replaces it with bright, clean space and an instant opportunity for positive changes to occur.
Shifts your perspective and helps you to deal with conflict more effectively.
You can’t be angry, stressed or overwhelmed when you are laughing, because when you really laugh you are completely present in the moment. This helps you to take an emotional step back, and to be more open to new meanings and inspiration.
Helps to lessen the negative personal impact of challenging situations and give you the ability to deal with them more effectively.
When you laugh you give yourself some respite. You can distance yourself emotionally for a little while, as you are fully present in your laughter. This does change your perspective, and you get all the other benefits of laughing too, so that as you face the situation again you feel better and have a refreshed outlook.
Can dislodge blocked emotions.
As you move, so you feel. Your physiology always has an effect on how you think and how you feel, and even tiny changes in movement and posture can have a real impact. Also, laughter has elements in common with crying (have you ever laughed until you cried?) It is therefore an excellent non-violent way to release pent-up feelings.
Helps you to sleep.
Many people say that they sleep a great deal better for having laughed for a sustained period of time, as in Laughter Yoga sessions.
I began to really understand how important laughter is when I became a teacher of Laughter Yoga, a concept originated in India by General Practitioner, Dr Madan Kataria. He recognised that sustained bouts of laughter combined with deep breathing can have great benefits to health and wellbeing – especially if you do it for 10-15 minutes each day. The yoga in the name is to do with the fact that it is a holistic practice and some of the breathing techniques are used in yoga too.
One of the beautiful things about Laughter Yoga is that you don’t have to have anything to laugh at or about. The laughter is initiated through gentle laughter exercises which are playful and fun - so the laughter is guaranteed. Then at the end of the session there is a period of relaxation, just a there would be in any yoga class.
However, Laughter Yoga isn’t for everyone – there are some medical conditions where it is contra-indicated. Also, some people find it excruciating. They can’t get into it at all, and they have no wish to participate – but this is usually because they are doing it under duress (such as at a work event where they have to attend and are expected to take part), or they haven’t been informed properly beforehand, and don’t understand what it’s all about.
When you don’t feel like laughing at all
If you’re feeling dreadful, the last thing you are likely to want to do is laugh. However, this is potentially when you might benefit the most, and laughter has been used in a therapeutic way for many years.
Once, I ran some Laughter Yoga sessions with people who were homeless, and I always remember one man who was very sad and tearful. He said how hopeless he felt. After much delicate persuading, he agreed to come and join in with a small group. The thing is, after a few minutes he really got into it! Later as I was leaving, I sought him out, and he looked completely different and had a twinkle in his eye.
“I feel different - I see things differently now. Thank you,” he said. I thought that was wonderful!
Another time, a friend of mine was due to cycle from one end of the UK to the other in order to raise money for charity. A few weeks before she was due to go, she damaged her knee. When I spoke to her, she was very stressed and worried that she wouldn’t be able to do it because of the pain, and that she’d let everyone down.
Whilst we spoke on the phone, I gave her a laughing exercise to do there and then. Without stopping to think about it, she did exactly what she was told – and boom! Everything changed. She went on to complete the ride and raised a small fortune for the charity, using the exercise whenever she felt especially challenged.
One of the fabulous things about laughing is that it zooms right in on your sense of fun and freedom, and unleashes a lightness and sparkle that may have previously been squashed.
So, you can choose to laugh, and use it as a self-help tool. Laughing on purpose increases your personal power, because it frees you and gives you control.
When others object
Babies laugh unconditionally about 300 times a day. But adults – though some laugh loads, many never laugh at all. This can be for all sorts of reasons. One common trigger is when someone has said something unkind about the sound of your laugh.
For example, I had a client who started to laugh at home regularly as she knew that it was doing her good, but when her husband told her she sounded like a hyena, she promptly stopped. She was very distressed about that, and her confidence took a real knock.
There are ways round this though, as I’ll explain below.
Laughing on purpose on your own
There is an ever-growing body of evidence to show that laughing on a daily basis improves your mental, emotional and physical health. It is simply too valuable a self-help tool to ignore. If a smile lasts a while, then a laugh lasts longer, and I know myself that if I don’t do my laughter practice each day, I don’t have the best day that I could.
Aim to express your laugh in public, because there is power in that. It’s good to have a little inward laugh or giggle, but it's important to have (or build) the confidence to laugh out loud when you want to.
However, intentional silent laughter (as if you know shouldn’t be laughing but you can’t help yourself) is good too, and sometimes you do need to laugh silently if it’s not appropriate to laugh out loud at the time. The client I mentioned above learnt to do this, and it got her back on track straight away.
The other lovely thing about laughing silently is that it seems to reach (and therefore exercise) muscles that outward laughing does not!
And it's fine to laugh on purpose whilst on your own, and entirely by yourself. Some of you may think this is a crazy idea, yet it can work for you so well. You could just start with a tiny chuckle, even if you don’t feel like it. Each day I tend to do this as I make breakfast. It might go on for about 5 minutes or so.
I “Hahahahaha” quietly and gently at the back of my throat as I fill the kettle, make toast etc. I make a point of taking deep breaths in between the chuckles, and I know I’m not disturbing anyone, because I’m being quiet (not silent) about it. But I’m firing myself up.
This is very powerful. Sometimes the chuckle becomes loud laughter, but if not, I know I’ll roar with laughter later, when the time is right.
Your way forward
I suggest you laugh whenever you can, for a fantastic, free, instant joy boost!
In particular though, laugh on purpose whenever you can, both on your own and with others. In doing so you free your spirit to soar and your soul to shine, and you release more joy into the world.
Find out about Find Your Oomph Coaching with Caroline Carr - guaranteed to boost your ability to laugh freely and often!
© May 30th 2020 Caroline Carr
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After working in the theatre and television for several years, Caroline taught drama, voice and speech in schools and prisons before becoming a life coach and hypnotherapist with a practice in Harley Street. Her personal and professional experience led to her developing a passion for teaching others how to find inner strength, confidence, positivity and joy. Hence she created Find Your Oomph. Caroline is the author of several books on mental health and women's health, and has been featured in the national press and interviewed on radio and TV.
Find out more about Laughter Yoga
Video of Dr Madan Kataria laughing silently
Video interview with Norman Cousins who in 1964 was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis and given a few months to live. In this interview he explains how he discovered that ten minutes of deep belly laughter gave him two hours of pain-free sleep at night.