EVERYONE has heard the saying laughter is the best medicine, but few people truly understand the depths of its healing powers.
Laughter is an amazing healer - one of those magical inner resources that enhances our mental, social, emotional, physical and even spiritual well-being. It can help us find some light in challenging times and is one of the best ways to diffuse a stressful situation. No matter where you are situated in the globe, we all laugh in the same language.
So why don't we laugh more? From an early age we become conditioned to question when it's appropriate to laugh. We learn there's a vast gap between laughing with others and being laughed at.
Then when we go into the workforce, unless you're a professional clown, it can't look like you're having too much fun or people might assume you're not doing a good job.
So laughter becomes a critical mental process rather than a reflex from the heart as it was when we were kids. Sadly, more people just talk about something being funny rather than laughing at it.
But just because you may not be laughing as much as you did as a child it doesn't mean your child-like laughter isn't within you. And it's about time you let it free.
Fifteen minutes a day will do wonders for your health and here's why.
The 10 top reasons you should activate your laughter:
1. Increases oxygen levels in your body
This optimises healthy body and brain functioning, improving concentration and productivity levels. Prolonged laughter helps rid the body of residual air, replacing it with energy-rich oxygen. It's one of the most fun aerobic activities ever. Try laughing without breathing - I dare you.
2. Strengthens your immunity
When you laugh the number of immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies that improve your resistance to disease increases. Some research has even shown that mirthful laughter may increase natural killer cell levels, a type of white blood cell that attacks cancer cells.
3. The best stress buster
A hearty laugh reduces stress hormones, resulting in lower tension, stress, anxiety and fear. It can even lower your blood pressure.
4. Improves heart health, lung function
When you laugh there's a contraction of muscles and an increase in blood flow and oxygen, which stimulates the heart and lungs.
5. Stimulates the lymphatic system
Genuine belly laughter manually moves your diaphragm, which prompts lymphatic circulation to remove waste fluid around our cells and also remove waste products, dead cells and any unwanted micro-organisms.
6. Triggers release of endorphins
Endorphins are what give you that happy high, making you more relaxed physically and emotionally. They're 30 times more powerful than morphine, so laugh lots and often.
7. Helps you connect with others
No matter your age, laughter is a super-bonder. It's really difficult to resist returning a smile or breaking out into laughter if someone has the giggles. This is because mirror neurons are engaged, causing you to smile when someone smiles at you, or yawn if someone else is yawning. Laughter even makes you more attractive and, like a magnet, people are drawn to other people laughing. The great news for relationships is that couples who laugh together tend to stay together.
8. Laughter is a form of meditation
It activates the body's natural relaxation response and brings you into the present moment. Laughter can be viewed as a whole brain experience, stimulating both hemispheres of the brain whereby brain wave frequencies are similar to what has been observed when a person engages in meditation.
9. Laughter builds resilience
Learning to laugh at yourself assists in adjusting to stress and adversity. It might take some time to be able to laugh after a painful event, but when you do it actually helps relieve your brain of some of the pain and trauma you have been carrying.
10. Creates a positive mindset
Laughter orients the brain to a positive mindset - regular laughter and smiling actually rewire the brain to a state of calm, joy and awareness.
So now that you understand the massive benefits, it's time to get laughing. Prioritise laughter and humour in your life. Join a laughter club. Go to a comedy show or funny film. Hang out with people who make you laugh, and spend more time doing fun activities.
This is one medicine that doesn't need a spoonful of sugar. There's nothing sweeter than the sound of laughter.
Ros Ben-Moshe is a laughter therapist and founder of Laugh Life well-being programs. She is the author of Laughing at Cancer: How To Heal With Love, Laughter and Mindfulness. To find out more, visit laughingatcancer.com or laughlife.com.au.