This is our fifth post in a series where we explore daily practices that nurture and encourage healing. Our last post discussed the benefits of nurturing sleep. This post explores the many ways that laughter improves our mental well being, social relationships, and physical health.
Consider how exercise routines promote physical health. What if adding workout reps of laughter could improve our health just as effectively? Before reading this article, take 30 seconds to begin the first laughter workout for the day:
Laughter is a universal language that brings people together. Shared laughter breaks down barriers, builds trust, and creates connection. Laughter has the power to de-escalate conflict and bring about creative and flexible solutions to challenges. When we laugh, dopamine is released and opens up pathways in the brain that help us discover novel solutions. According to Ellen Weber and Jeane Segal, “humor and playful communication strengthen our relationships by triggering positive feelings and fostering emotional connection. When we laugh with one another, a positive bond is created. This bond acts as a strong buffer against stress, disagreements, and disappointment.” Just think of all of the ways humor can improve communication in marriage relationships, strengthen parent-child relationships, and deepen friendships.
Social Benefits of Laughter
Laughter Promotes Learning
Remember the old adage, “This is no laughing matter?” It turns out that the more serious an issue is, the more important it is to cultivate laughter. According to Ellen Weber, lectures work against the human brain and our ability to learn. We retain only 5% of the content. When information is paired with humor, our brain pathways light up, and we are able to connect with material in novel ways. We retain and assimilate the material with more ease.
Improves Physical and Mental Health
Laughter is powerful medicine when it comes to the body. When we laugh, endorphins are released in the brain. Endorpins are the “feel good” chemicals that flood our bodies with a sense of well-being. Endorphins also temporalily decrease pain. Laughter reduces stress as it relieves physical tension and relaxes muscles in the body. Laughter increases our ability to fight disease as it decreases stress hormones and increases our immune system.
Mental Health Benefits
Here is one more 40 second laughter workout to light up your day:
Look for ways to add more laughter into each day. Seek out ways to cultivate laughter in relationships. Remember laughing is some of the best medicine when it comes to physical health, intimate bonds, and mental well-being. Laughter really is a serious matter.