4 Stress Benefits From Laughter That Can Help No Matter The Crisis

benefits of laughter

Everyone is navigating novel situations because of the pandemic. Understandably, these new situations (working from home, homeschooling, working from home AND homeschooling) are causing significant stress, and anxiety in many of our households. Among a myriad stress and anxiety management tools, one of my favorite is laughter. When we can remember how humor heals, we can free ourselves to tap into the benefits of laughter.

A friend’s videotaped reaction to the three-week extension of the stay-at-home order was a priceless gift to her social media friends a few weeks ago. She had gotten the giggles, and when I tripped across her video, I did too.

The laughter was unexpected, and cathartic. Hers was the contagious kind of laughter that both engulfs and releases tension all at the same time, leaving you feeling happier, connected, and just better. It was good.

It reminded me of how important laughter can be when it comes to managing stress and building resilience no matter the crisis you face. And there are some good reasons why this is. Laughter is as powerful an emotional release as crying is in its cascade of biological helpfulness.

How humor heals is probably best understood by examining the benefits of laughter which include:

  1. Laughter takes your mind off the situation.

Laughter has powerful distracting benefits, and a sense of humor can heal. Looking for the humor in a situation and even allowing yourself to laugh can be a strong catalyst for copingmanaging anxiety,and be protective in building resilience.

As a bonus, when you share your laughter and/or humorous take about a common difficulty (as my friend did in her video), you help others take their minds off the situation too. Your humor heals not only you, but those who can appreciate it.

 

  1. Laughter triggers a biochemical reaction that eases discomfort.

What is especially interesting is the relationship between the biochemistry of anxiety and laughter. The amygdala is a very small area of the brain and is at the center of our threat response or fight-or-flight response. Yet the amygdala is also involved in laughter.

While there is much more to learn about the biology of laughter, it can be particularly effective when it comes to releasing tension and stress as well as tolerating anxiety and pain.

 

  1. The benefits of laughter include greater health.

Science is strong for laughter’s health benefits. Laughing increases the production of immune cells, reduces cortisol (a hormone which is chronically high when an individual suffers from long-term stress and suppresses the immune system), lowers blood pressure, antibody levels rise, and the body’s natural anticarcinogenic response accelerates. Laughter truly is great medicine.

 

  1. Laughter is a strong social glue.
    Laughter is a powerful social catalyst. It connects us to others in that it releases the brain’s feel good chemicals called endorphins. It is also highly contagious. This makes laughter particularly efficient at building connection too.

 

  1. Laughter improves mental performance.Laughter improves cognition. The theory developed by Rod Martin, a psychologist and laughter researcher, explains this phenomenon as the result of an accelerated heart rate which increases oxygen to the brain.

 

So whether it’s a favorite rerun of Seinfeld, the latest edition of Some Good News, or one of these top comedy movies of all time, search out opportunities to laugh wherever you can. Discovering for yourself how humor heals can a pleasure in itself, and is a powerful tool in terms of resetting your mood, and boosting resilience.

No matter the crisis, look for ways you can laugh… it will help.

 

Looking for more help in harnessing anxiety to maximize wellness? Learn more about my book Hack Your Anxiety and access free tools to help you manage the fear and anxiety going around the world today.

Photo by Leighann Blackwood on Unsplash

Alicia H. Clark, PsyD

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