You know how important it is to keep yourself physically and emotionally in good shape when you are a parent or parent to be; but often this can feel easier said than done. Wouldn’t it be amazing if I could share with you one simple thing that could enable you to:
- Boost your emotional well being
- Reduce stress (cortisol the stress hormone)
- Improve your immune system
- Relieve pain
- Boost your circulation
- Encourage positive thinking
- Enable you to use your lungs more effectively
- Become more resilient
And what if that one thing was FREE and could be accessed at any time. Not only that; it is actually fun and you already know how to do it. How good would that be? – AMAZING! – I know! Ok, so what is it?
Yes laughter can do all of that and more. Why do you think it is that babies laugh before they can speak? Ever wondered the reason why nature creates this natural behaviour? It’s funny (laughter …funny…ha, ha) isn’t it; that’s because laughter is within us and around us all the time, we rarely give it a second thought. But, laughter is an amazing gift. For me, laughter is so much more than a way to express an emotion, and maybe that is the reason why we need to develop this gift so early in life. What is also interesting is laughter is one of the last abilities to deteriorate with age, so even if an older person’s abilities to walk and talk are diminishing they will still be able to laugh. I truly believe Laughter is an essential part of being human.
It does not matter where in the world you are born, what language you speak or what cultural background you are from we all laugh in the same way because we are all human beings
I always find it fascinating that children laugh with such ease and yet somehow as we get older we seem to almost unlearn our ability to laugh and be joyful. Observe the young people in your life. See how they can run, skip and laugh for no specific reason other than they choose to be joyful. Observe how they simply laugh because they can and because they know it feels great to laugh.
It is said that children laugh 200 /300 times a day yet adults only laugh between 10 and 15 times.
What happens? What happens to us as we grow up? Do we forget how to laugh? Do we forget how great it feels? When was the last time you had a hearty belly laugh. Do you remember the last time your cheeks ached from laughing so much? Does it even matter? Do you think that maybe you have responded to the messages you were given during your early years, such as:
- Be quite!
- Don’t be silly!
- Not now!
- Don’t show off!
- Not here!
- Don’t make a scene!
- Grow up!
- Act your age why don’t you!
- It’s embarrassing!
But is laughter really that important? In my opinion YES it is VITAL! Laughter gives us so much. It fires off our feel good endorphins releasing serotonin and this helps us reduce the amount of cortisol in our bodies. Cortisol is released when a person is stressed and creates the body’s fight or flight response and the more we can boost our feel good chemistry the better our bodies can function. Not only that, but this hormone effects how we feel, and when we feel positive we become emotionally strong and better equipped to deal with everything life throws our way. This is especially important during pregnancy and birth and also when planning a family.
Dr Lee Berk of Loma University Medical Centre, California, has been conducting laughter therapy research since the late 1970s. In 1989, Berk studied the effects of laughter in 10 healthy males. Five experimental subjects watched an hour-long comedy while the other five control subjects didn’t. Blood samples taken from the 10 subjects revealed that cortisol (the hormone our body releases when under stress) in the experimental subjects had decreased more rapidly in comparison to the control subjects. Berk’s research has also shown that the level of natural killer cells (a type of immune cell that attacks virus and tumour cells) is increased through laughter. These same cells are suppressed if the body suffers consistent long-term stress.
So laughter releases feel good endorphins which are brilliant but surely that has to have something to do with how you are feeling at the time. Surely you need something external to make you laugh? Well, this is a mistaken belief, remember the children and how they laugh through choice. Laughter can be a choice and if you choose to laugh you will discover that: you do not need to feel happy to laugh, laughter can make you happy. When you simulate laughter you fire off the same internal chemistry as you do when you laugh in response to an external stimulant because the process of creating the laughter remains the same the only difference is your thinking. Go on try it now; have a little or better still a big laugh for 30 seconds and see how you feel.
Notice how your heart rate increased. Notice how and why you are smiling? Even if you are smiling at the absurdity of laughing for no reason, you are still smiling which is making a positive shift to your internal chemistry. I don’t know how much you like exercise but I am sure you know how good it is for your body to be active. Laughter is like an internal jogging exercise. It wakes up your body and boosts your circulation.
Dr William F Fry psychiatrist Stanford University California concludes that 20 seconds of intense laughter even if faked, can double the heart rate for 2 to 5 minutes.
Researchers at the University of Michigan have also calculated that just 20 seconds of laughter could be as good for the lungs as three minutes spent on a rowing machine.
Laughter also encourages us to use our lung capacity more effectively. Generally, we only use about 25% of our lung capacity, but when we laugh we exhale so much more than we normally do, that it helps revitalise our lungs and draw in fresh air that the body needs to function. Every cell in our bodies is dependent on how we breathe. We can live without food or water for several days but without air for merely a few minutes we struggle to survive. Breath is vital and so often in modern society we breathe less effectively through taking shallow breaths which has a negative impact on our health. Chinese medicine practitioners will always assess your breathing rate as they directly connect this to the body’s ability to be dis-ease free. The more you laugh the more healthy fresh air you draw into your body enabling every cell to work more effectively.
Dr Otto Warburg President of institute of cell Physiology and Nobel Prize winner twice + 3rd nomination (for medicine) said “ deep breathing techniques increase oxygen to the cells and are the most important factors in living a disease free and energetic life. When cells get enough oxygen cancer will not and cannot occur.
These are just a few of the reasons why laughter is so amazing. I could keep going on and on about the wonder of laughter, but I guess what you would really like to know is how can you bring more laughter into your world.
- Choosing to laugh – Yes that’s right just laugh do it now. You may be surprised that you can laugh for absolutely no reasons other than you have chosen to.
- Watching comedy and things that make you laugh. – Get out your favourite box sets of you’ve been framed or whatever it is that makes you laugh and give yourself some laughter time every day.
- Play games and share jokes. Give yourself time to have fun.
- Call friends that make you laugh and make a point of spending time with them
- Choose to respond to challenges in life with laughter – if someone or something bothers you, laugh about it (if that seems less than easy try an angry laugh). When you express a less happy emotion using laughter you will release the negativity without firing off all the unhelpful internal chemistry. – stamp your feet and say ho, ho, ho, ha, ha, ha, he, he, he and repeat until you feel better)
Attend laughter workshops or have a laughter party – I run 2 laughter workshops every month in Tunbridge Wells on the first and 3rd Mondays of the month and I have the capacity to book small group laughter sessions too.The more you laugh the more you will laugh. Your chuckle muscles are like any other muscles; the more you use them the stronger they become and the more easily you will laugh in all areas of your life. Use these activities to reawaken/reinvigorate your laughter and notice how it has a positive effect on you and your interaction with others.
On a personal note: Laughter has had a dramatic influence on me and my life. I am happier, more contented and confident than I have ever been. I have discovered new ways to handle challenges and I manage my own moods far more effectively than I once did. I laugh a lot more now and not just planned sessions, but all the time. Generally life becomes less stressful and more laid back, brighter and more fun than it once was and all thanks to discovering the amazing gift of laughter
Be healthy, be well and be happy
With many warm giggles from
Life and Laughter coach