Start the New Year by committing to some new behaviors that get you laughing. Share a joke with a co-worker or tell a story that makes you chuckle. Laughing in a social environment or by yourself stimulates an internal and external response that contributes to feelings of pleasure, enjoyment, mirth and relief to name a few.
Why is laughing so important? We often catch ourselves laughing in a social situation, but hardly do we find ourselves laughing when we are alone. The fear of having someone walk in on you while you laugh hysterically by yourself may be terrifying for many; this includes me! Although, it is worth a try. Several studies have presented varying beneficial health outcomes linked to a good laugh.
Just like working out, laughing can recruit facial, respiratory and laryngeal muscles. The expanding and contracting of these muscles during episodes of laughter result in energy expenditure that over time will replicate the effects of a low-intensity workout. According to a study conducted by Bukowski and colleagues (2007), "…laughter causes a 10-20% increase in energy expenditure and HR above resting values". Which means that 10-15 minutes of real laughter every day may increase the total energy expenditure by 10-40kcal per day. Not the ideal method for losing weight, but it certainly does not hurt to laugh off an extra pound or two.
Reduce the feeling of stress
Cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine aka “the stress hormones” are activated when our bodies natural "flight or fight" response kicks in during certain stressful situations. Elongated periods of elevated stress hormones can present many adverse health effects including the development of chronic stress, depression, diabetes, high blood pressure and anxiety to name a few. Alleviating these stress hormones not only enhance your mood, but it can also lessen the effects of chronic health outcomes related to ongoing stress. Dunbar (2012) found that laughing can offset the impact of elevated stress hormones by increasing the level of endorphins that trigger positive feelings. The firing of endorphins, increases your heart rate, respiratory depth and oxygen consumption followed by a period of muscle relaxation that can make you feel at ease and even motivate you to share a good laugh. So, try it! The next time your boss approaches you with your new project, crack a joke and laugh it off with him. That is after you see his initial reaction.