Written by Georgina Mellas, Reiki Master
Laughter is the Best Medicine
A few years ago at this time, my terminally ill mother came to live with us until she ultimately passed of cancer in early Spring. It was the most emotionally difficult time in mine (and my sister’s) life. As I reflect on how I was able to cope and make it through this time, I can honestly say that one of the most effective tools for my well-being was laughter. I am lucky enough to have a young son who makes me laugh constantly and the entire series DVD sets of “Frasier” and “Three’s Company” (I know I am dating myself here!). Anytime I felt really low, I would binge watch these two old sitcoms and within minutes I was smiling and soon after laughing hysterically! Often I would watch with my sister and husband which was even more effective because we could laugh together.
Sure, it’s fun to share a good laugh, but did you know it can actually improve your health? It’s true: laughter is strong medicine. It draws people together in ways that trigger healthy physical and emotional changes in the body. Laughter strengthens your immune system, boosts mood, diminishes pain, and protects you from the damaging effects of stress. As children, we used to laugh hundreds of times a day, but as adults’ life tends to be more serious and laughter more infrequent. By seeking out more opportunities for humor and laughter, though, you can improve your emotional health, strengthen your relationships, find greater happiness, even during the darkest of days.
Laughter makes you feel good and the good feeling that you get when you laugh remains with you even after the laughter subsides. Humour helps you keep a positive, optimistic outlook through difficult situations, disappointments, and loss.
More than just a respite from sadness and pain, laughter gives you the courage and strength to find new sources of meaning and hope. Even in the most difficult of times, a laugh, or even simply a smile, can go a long way toward making you feel better. Also, laughter really is contagious. Just hearing laughter primes your brain and readies you to smile and join in the fun.
Experts have determined that there is a distinct link between laughter and mental/emotional health:
Laughter stops distressing emotions. You can’t feel anxious, angry, or sad when you’re laughing.
Laughter helps you relax and recharge. It reduces stress and increases energy, enabling you to stay focused and accomplish more.
Laughter shifts perspective, allowing you to see situations in a more realistic, less threatening light. A humourous perspective creates psychological distance, which can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and diffuse conflict.
Laughter draws you closer to others, which can have a profound effect on all aspects of your mental and emotional health.
Laughter is your birthright, a natural part of life that is innate and inborn. Infants begin smiling during the first weeks of life and laugh out loud within months of being born. Even if you did not grow up in a household where laughter was a common sound, you can learn to laugh at any stage of life.
Begin by setting aside special times to seek out humour and laughter, as you might with exercise, and build from there. Eventually, you’ll want to incorporate humour and laughter into the fabric of your life, finding it naturally in everything you do.
Here are some ways to start:
Smile. Smiling is the beginning of laughter and like laughter, it’s contagious. When you look at someone or see something even mildly pleasing, practice smiling. Instead of looking down at your phone, look up and smile at people you pass in the street, the person serving you a morning coffee, or the co-workers you share an elevator with. Notice the effect this has on others.
Count your blessings. Literally make a list. The simple act of considering the good things in your life will distance you from negative thoughts that are a barrier to humour and laughter. When you’re in a state of sadness, you have further to travel to get to humour and laughter.
When you hear laughter, move toward it. Most often, people are very happy to share something funny because it gives them an opportunity to laugh again and feed off the humour you find in it. When you hear laughter, seek it out and ask, “What’s funny?”
Spend time with fun, playful people. These are people who laugh easily–both at themselves and at life’s absurdities, and who routinely find the humour in everyday events. Their playful point of view and laughter are contagious. Even if you don’t consider yourself a lighthearted, humourous person, you can still seek out people who like to laugh and make others laugh. Every comedian appreciates an audience.
Bring humor into conversations. Ask people, “What’s the funniest thing that happened to you today? This week? In your life?”
It is essential to our healing to recognize, feel and express our emotions whether it be grief, sadness, loss or anger but it is equally essential to our well-being to allow ourselves to experience joyful moments amongst these darker times. So, the next time you are feeling low, give yourself permission to take a “pause” and watch something silly. Spend some time with “Frasier and Niles”, “Jack Tripper”, or the gang at “Cheers”, I guarantee it will lighten your load, even if just for a while.
Georgina is a Reiki Master dedicated to helping clients release and heal emotional and physical challenges including childhood trauma, stress, depression, anxiety and chronic pain.
For more information, please visit www.georginamellas.com