Laughter Is The Best Medicine
Having fun is often low on our list of priorities, but what if doing more of what we love was good for us? We seem to be bombarded with advice suggesting that to improve our physical and mental well-being we should drink more water, eat more vegetables, get more sleep, do more exercise and learn to meditate. While these might be helpful (and can indeed support our immune system) it is good to know that laughter and having fun can also have a positive effect on both our physical and mental health.
Research shows that laughter and doing things we really enjoy can reduce cortisol, the stress hormone, and increase both serotonin and endorphins. Rebalancing these can help regulate sleep patterns, improve memory and boost our mood, promoting an overall sense of well-being. Endorphins can even temporarily reduce pain. (See www.helpguide.org and www.verywellmind.com)
What we consider fun is different for each of us, but is anything which we find intrinsically enjoyable, with no goals, allowing a freedom from everyday worries. A spirit of playfulness, spontaneity and curiosity can lift our spirits, and improve our ability to deal with stress. We could see relaxing and having fun as building up reserves in our ‘well-being bank’, so that when a stressful situation arises we are able to cope better, rather than finding ourselves drained and depleted. So whether it is dancing in the kitchen, singing in the shower, splashing in puddles or curling up with a good book, doing things which we enjoy is definitely good for us!
Laughter can also play a part in our physical and emotional health. It can help us feel more positive and optimistic, even in difficult situations, and can help us relax, relieve physical and emotional tensions, and give us more energy. It can help us feel more connected to others, improve our relationships, and defuse anger and conflict by shifting our perspective. By looking for the humour in a bad situation, and being able to laugh at our own mistakes rather than feeling embarrassed or defensive, we could find ourselves getting less stressed.
We can all make a conscious effort to do something each day that we enjoy, all the better if it also makes us laugh, whether that may be watching a favourite comedy show, talking with a friend, playing with the dog or laughing at ourselves for putting the car keys in the fridge. It could be just what the doctor ordered!