Why Laughter Keeps You Young …and Healthy too

It’s no longer a secret that laughter keeps you young.  Researchers studying the process of aging know that laughter improves blood circulation — to the head and to the heart.  Laughing is good for you.

A-maze-ing Laughter - photo courtesy of Chris Higgins

A good belly laugh every day improves mood, improves physical health and improves emotional health.  Best of all, it’s free to everyone.

Physical Health Benefits

Laughing heartily and uncontrollably provides a physical release.  Several muscles are exercised including the diaphragm, the abdomen muscles and the shoulders.  Blood circulation is increased for all major body organs including the brain. Laughter even provides some exercise for the heart.  Increased blood circulation stimulates facial muscles so you might even look better!

Some researchers report that laughter can reduce pain. Increasingly, medical experts use laughter therapy in cancer care and with other chronic illnesses.

When we laugh, stress hormone levels are reduced and levels of healthy hormones are increased.  The body’s immune system improves with the release of endorphins, those natural ‘feel-good’ chemicals.

These physical effects account for the cleansed feeling that happens after a good laugh.

Laughter to Manage Stress and Emotional Health

It’s hard to feel anxious or sad when you are having a good laugh.  Laughter distracts.  It takes your mind away from daily problems and worries.  When the endorphins reach your brain, stress levels are automatically reduced.  You relax and as you relax you recharge. You start to feel good and your mind clears.

Laughter can also provides a new perspective.  Very often I need my husband’s light-hearted view of the world to help me see situations differently.  His easy laughter re-frames problems which helps me to see new possibilities — and sometimes, to find novel solutions.

Experts consider the social benefits of laughter as the most powerful way that laughter influences health.  This winter I have played bridge with a wonderful group of women.   The bridge games often involve eating a meal together, sharing stories and lots of good laughs as we play.  My bridge game is getting better.  More importantly, new bonds of friendship are forming as we laugh at our mistakes and learn together.

Laughter creates and strengthens relationships.  It is contagious.  When you laugh, others laugh too — thus the quality of social interaction improves.

Learning to Laugh

You can learn to laugh at any stage of life.  Even if you are going through a difficult phase of life, laughter will contribute to your overall outlook and keep you young and healthy.

  1. Seek out funny people.  Hang out with people who laugh often and laugh with them.
  2. Adopt a playful point of view.

    Laughing Lady with silly hat - photo courtesy of Jim Clark
  3. Do something silly just for the sake of doing it and for the sake of breaking your customary routines. Spontaneity can bring new rewards of fun.
  4. Try a laughter yoga class.  Laughter yoga is fun and many laughter yoga classes are offered — usually at no charge.  Laughter yoga stimulates laughter and combines this with pranayama, a form of yogic breathing.  It will leave you happy and energized.
  5. Find your sense of humour so that you can laugh at life’s frustrations.
  6. Lighten up.  Learn to laugh at your own mistakes.  By not taking yourself too seriously you will learn to laugh at your everyday foibles.
  7. ‘Fake it till you make it’.  Researchers say that your body can’t distinguish between real or fake laughing.  You get the health benefits regardless of whether it is fake or real laughter.
  8. Treat yourself hilarious diversions — to funny movies, books, YouTube videos.  You want not just ordinary comedy but truly hilarious diversions.
  9. Spend time with children.  Children know how to laugh and how to play.  If you hang out with children you can discover their secrets and have lots of laughter as you make these discoveries.

    Giggling boys -- photo courtesy of Alan Cleaver
  10. Play with your pets.  Laugh at their tricks and their habits. You’ll discover how much fun you can have sharing their routines.

If you can’t laugh, try smiling more.  Sometimes life just feels too grim to laugh but a simple smiles attracts others. Smiles are as contagious as laughter.  They enhance relationships and you will feel good — even as the smile subsides.

Good laughter - photo courtesy of Manosij Mukherjee

Making a conscious effort to incorporate more humour and fun into daily life with your family will pay big dividends.  Your outlook on life will change and the laughter you share — and will keep you young …. and healthy too.

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