Wellness Blog

Self-Prescribing a Good Dose of Laughter

Posted by Razina Patel

January 19, 2016 at 10:00 AM

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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.

Aerobic exercise

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. 

A Key in social bonding

A good sense of humor maybe, even more, appealing to the opposite sex than your physical appearance. Unfortunately, good humor is not the ultimate savior. Yes, you should still try your best to make sure your curls are perfect or that tough piece of hair is tucked away. Aside from making you feel relieved and slightly worked up, a good laugh may signal social interest or even social bonding with that special someone.  In a recent study, Hall (2015) found that individuals who were able to laugh together were likely to establish a longer lasting partnership. The emotions of laughter and bonding can accentuate the feelings of confidence, excitement and the desire for socialization. Work on it, the next time you get ready to attend a gathering try to polish up your punchlines as it may stand you a better chance.

HOW TO USE LAUGHTER:

  • Practice laughter yoga that consists of a series of movements and breathing exercises that stimulate laughter without using jokes or humor. 
  • Make it a habit of reading a joke with your morning coffee that you can share with your co-workers or classmates
  • Go out with friend[s] and share some stories that make you chuckle
  • Reminisce about your past events or the most embarrassing moments
  • Watch a comedy movie
  • Read other people's embarrassing stories on social media

The best part is you can be the carrier to start this new epidemic of contagious laughter without harming the surrounding environment.

 

  1. Buchowski, M., Majchrzak, K., Blomquist K., Chen, K., Byrne, D., & Bachorowski, J. (2007). Energy expenditure of genuine laughter. International Journal of Obesity (2005), 31(1), 131-137.
  1. Dunbar, R., Baron, R., Frangou, A., Pearce, E., van Leeuwin, E., Stow, J.,... & Van Vugt, M. (2011). Social laughter is correlated with an elevated pain threshold.Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 279, 1161-1167.
  1. Hall, J. (2015). Sexual Selection and Humor in Courtship A Case for Warmth and Extroversion.Evolutionary Psychology, 13(3), 1-10.

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Topics: Stress, Fitness, Wellness, Mind Body Spirit

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