Every day in my yoga-for-cancer work, I’m with people who are trying to take care of their bodies, quiet their minds and find some peace. So I think a lot about what it means to be healthy and happy, and lately I’ve been talking about the benefits of laughter.
Q: What did the duck say when she bought lipstick?
A: “Put it on my bill.”
The benefits of laughter include:
- A reduction in stress hormones like cortisol and adrenalin;
- An increase in endorphins, which can reduce pain;
- A boost to your immune system;
- A reduction in tension,
- An increase in blood flow and circulation, because blood vessels open up when you laugh
Laughter changes your mindset, shifting your perspective away from worry and fear, even if only for a little while. It connects you to others, thereby strengthening your relationships, easing your emotional load and promoting a sense of community.
You can intentionally cultivate more laughter in your life in several ways. You could set a goal of watching the 25 best movie comedies of all time or you could subscribe to a funny cat video YouTube channel. (I’ve spent a little too much time researching this and can attest to its effectiveness.)
You can also hang out with children and emulate their sense of play and wonder. Or spend time with your funniest friends, people who like to laugh and see the humor in everyday life.
Aside from intentional actions, you can also be mindful when laughter happens spontaneously. We’re hardwired for negative bias, which means we spend more mental energy on what’s wrong than what’s right. You can rewire your brain for happiness by noting when joy is happening — Oh, I’m laughing! This is a pleasant moment.
Another approach is to start shifting your mindset by smiling more. Not fake smiling, real smiling. Notice the effects of that on yourself and others. Smiling moves you away from negative thoughts and stress and helps you cultivate more positive moments. And it releases the feel-good neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin.
Try being playful. Don’t take yourself too seriously; laugh at your foibles. Shake up your sense of self by letting your inner silliness have more air time. My close friends would tell you that I’m good at this practice.
You can also join a laughter yoga club. Yes, it’s a real thing — they practice simulating laughter by working the diaphragm and soon they are really laughing.
Think of this pursuit of laughter and joy as a serious prescription for healing. Don’t laugh it off (pun intended) as silly and inconsequential — give it value. Healing is not just about your ailment going away, but about achieving a vibrant state of peace, contentment, and joy. Take your laughter more seriously!
What did the green grape say to the purple grape? “OMG! Breathe! Breeeathe!”