One of life’s most simple yet powerful pleasures is a good belly laugh. You know the kind: it starts down deep and just makes your whole body shake, and maybe even prompts a few joyful tears! Laughter is a vital boost to our well-being, and there are many ways to get a few chuckles, giggles, and even a few snorts every day.
How Laughter Improves Your Health
When you want something quick, free, healthy, and easy to boost your mood and reduce stress, laughter fills that need tenfold. There’s a lot going in the body and mind when you’re amused. Here’s how WebMD breaks it down:
- Each laugh provides a rush of new oxygen to your system; releases endorphins or “feel good” chemicals in your brain; and also activates, then deactivates, your stress response for a sense of relaxation and reduced muscle tension. These are just a few of the short-term benefits.
- Daily laugh sessions over time might actually improve your immune system; lessen symptoms of chronic pain; improve circulation; help increase the ability to deal with challenges; create a foundation for valuable connections; and make it easier to enhance self-esteem and regulate your mood.
There’s actually a field of study called gelotology that examines the effects of laughter on our physiology. Researchers also find success with “laughter prescriptions” designed to help people cope with Parkinson’s disease, cancer, and other serious medical conditions.
Laughter therapy for recovery is also a popular holistic option because it provides a gateway to joy and connection without the use of substances. Especially in early sobriety, it takes time for the brain to produce those “feel good” chemicals again without artificial stimulation. Laughter engages the brain’s neurotransmitters naturally. See? Quick, free, healthy, and easy!
Why Do We Laugh?
WebMD, in an interview with behavioral neurobiologist Robert R. Provine, states that “laughter is primitive, an unconscious vocalization … in laughter, we emit sounds and express emotions that come from deep within our biologic being—grunts and cackles from our animal unconscious.”
And it’s not a purely human characteristic. Some researchers suggest as many as 65 animals have some type of laughter response—although few sound like anything we’d categorize as laughter.
Honestly? Science hasn’t yet cracked the code on why we laugh, and how it’s totally subjective. “Our study failed to discover ‘The Mother of All Jokes’ or even her next of kin. In fact, most laughter did not follow anything resembling a joke, storytelling, or other formal attempt at humor,” Provine told WebMD. “Most laughter is about playful relationships between people, not about jokes. If you pay attention to everyday life, you laugh.”
Each of us has something that tickles our funny bone, even if we don’t understand why. To improve your health, see what you can do daily that’s bound to crack you up.
How to Laugh More Every Day
If relationships are the bedrock of a laughing foundation, then perhaps rallying members of your sober network for hijinks and hilarity is in order! Enjoy positive time together by exploring a new area, sharing stories, playing cards and other games, exercising, and doing other activities which allow for everyone’s natural exuberance to shine through.
Here are some other ideas for laughter-filled days:
Make a point to read daily comic strips. Many popular cartoonists have sites, or their work is available through collectives such as GoComics. You can also search for dozens of web comics that appeal to a wide range of humor preferences.
Watch comedians! Both live and online, there are thousands of talented people who really, really, want to make you laugh! If you haven’t been to a comedy or improv show in a while, make a date to share a room filled with other people chuckling along. You can also search YouTube for designated channels, such as Dry Bar Comedy, featuring stand-up laugh relief.
Get a pet. If you have the means and time to care for a cat or dog, you’re bound to break into spontaneous laughter more than once a day! Animals long to bond with their human companions and are always eager to play with and learn from us. Responsible pet ownership also helps alleviate loneliness in sobriety.
Change your viewing preferences. Sure, a police procedural or a reality show might capture your attention for a while, but there are plenty of comedies that provide necessary stress relief.
Try some laughter videos. Part of the laughter therapy process is to play along with techniques that prompt a giggle. Sure, it might be because these people seem to be acting a little strange, but the biological benefits are the same! Here’s one example, as well as an explanation about laughter yoga—this is a great video to try!
Willingway: Helping You Live Well
It’s our goal to help you discover all the ways to craft a life filled with health, joy, and purpose. We also understand the power of connection, and how sharing stories and laughter with trusting people helps reinforce your intentions. In Georgia, Willingway offers this valuable support at our various events and also at continuing care community groups we host throughout the Southeast.