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Laughter a powerful form of stress relief

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It's true what they say, laughter is the best medicine.

It's true what they say, laughter is the best medicine.

It's true what they say, laughter is the best medicine.

I regularly post messages on my business facebook page around the theme of wellbeing. Some are simply about what it takes to feel good and others are more thought provoking prompting reflection about life and how to live a better one. It always amazes me what gets the best reaction and what appeals less.

In general, people seem to value and respond to simple opportunities for a laugh and a smile. They always say laughter is the best medicine and there is a lot of evidence to support this.  Modern life as we all know can be challenging at times – with many under serious pressures these days. 

Laughter is a powerful form of stress relief with both short and longer-term benefits.  In the short term, it increases your intake of oxygen rich air stimulating your lungs, heart, muscles and increasing the feel good endorphins released by your brain. 

It eases tension by stimulating circulation and boosting muscle relaxation, both of which can alleviate some of the physical symptoms of stress. A good belly laugh also activates and relieves your stress response by firing it up and cooling it down - initially increasing and then decreasing your blood pressure and heart rate bringing about feel-good relaxed sensations.

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The long term benefits of laughter include boosting your immune system.  Positive thoughts can release feel good neuropeptides that aid in fighting stress and even potentially serious illness.  Generally, laughter lifts your mood and can help reduce stress, depression and anxiety whilst also helping you feel happier inside. It is also shown to help boost self-esteem. 

Laughter also help with pain relief by causing the body to produce its own natural pain killers.  It even helps us cope with the more difficult life situations. The more challenging the situations – often the darker the humour. It also helps you feel connected with others breaking down feelings of isolation, loneliness and lack of belonging. 

Even smiling has powerful stress relieving benefits.  Your brain releases neuropeptides to help fight off stress when you smile. Other neurotransmitter chemicals including dopamine, serotonin and endorphins join in too.  Endorphins offer a mild pain relief and serotonin is a natural anti-depressant.  There is even some evidence showing that a faking smile can help boost your mood and happiness levels!  Smiling affects those around you too.  The reward centre of our brain is activated when we see others smile making us feel a little better.  Some studies show that smiling is infectious.  We naturally smile when others are smiling. 

As well as helping us feel good, one study by a group of economists showed that  “human happiness has large and positive causal effects on productivity. Positive emotions appear to invigorate human beings, while negative emotions have the opposite effect.” 

Some people have laughter as part of their regular daily life.  If you don’t, why not put it front of mind? Have things around you that make you smile.  Watch funny movies or comedians. Make a habit of sharing a laugh with others.  Try laughter yoga.  When I lived in Delhi I would often see groups of middle aged and older people sitting in parks laughing.  It seemed artificial at first glance  But it only looked like that at the start.  The many positive benefits were fast acting and lasting! 

As you finish this article, why not try a smile or a laugh even and notice the effect on your body.  Are your muscles less tense?  Wishing you a fun-filled week!  Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand. — Mark Twain


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