Why Laughter Is One of the Best Medicines for Stress Management
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Stress management doesn’t only come in the form of meditation, spa treatments or other relaxing practices. Humor and laughter are very important stress management techniques.
Pamela Walker, PhD, a clinical psychologist in private practice at Cooper Aerobics Center, explains how humor and laughter strengthen bonds between people, therefore creating healthy relationships and support systems as forms of stress buffers.
Humor in Relationships
Studies show that humor shared between spouses contributed positively to their marital satisfaction. Similarity in humor appreciation in couples is positively correlated with interpersonal attraction.
Just as humor in our relationships with spouses is important, children can often teach us about how to use humor. The key is to let childlike qualities in ourselves come forward. Frequency of laughter actually decreases with age. Children laugh more than adults, and find laughter more natural. Adults should seek out opportunities to create more humor and laughter.
Humor as a Stress Reducer
Laughter has been shown to reduce the stress hormones, reduce tension and increase relaxation. Using humor as a coping mechanism reduces the impact of stress associated with negative life events.
Laughing also has a direct impact on our body. When a person laughs hard and out loud, it has been compared to “internal jogging.” Hearty laughter results in increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, increased body temperature, tightened muscles and increased respiration. After hearty laughter the body responds like after a workout. Do you remember your last laugh and the relaxation you felt afterwards? Our bodies relax, respiration and heart rate fall to below normal levels, muscles relax, we take a slow and deep breath to feel calm and relaxed.
Humor on Our Health
Did you know that humor has a direct impact on our health? Hearty laughter has been shown to reduce the perception of pain or helps to erase the pain threshold. Laughter also has a stimulating effect on the immune system, which helps resist disease.
It’s important to experience humor and laughter throughout the day. Every time you do, it has a temporary, stimulating effect on your immune system.
Nancy and Dean Hoch, authors of Go for The Eagle, suggest the following ideas for incorporating humor and laughter into your everyday life:
Seek out people who laugh in situations that are humorous.
Practice laughing and force hearty laughter if necessary. Frequently, the situation actually turns funny and you are really laughing.
Keep a file or scrapbook of humorous cartoons, jokes and stories.
Memorize jokes and stories that are funny and seek out comics and humorous books.
Humor in our daily lives is an uplifting and fun way to help lower stress and create a positive impact on our health. As one unknown researcher summed it up, “He who laughs…lasts.”