Sometimes it seems like every day brings more bad news. My advice? Don’t forget to laugh.
Laughter can be profoundly healing. I recently read the results of a new study showing that laughter and humor were as effective as drugs for reducing agitation in a group of Alzheimer’s patients. Sight gags and verbal humor were used to get the patients to participate and react. Virtually everyone benefited, and the results were found to last beyond the duration of the study.
We are all born knowing how to laugh, although our sense of humor is learned later. Some people seem to laugh more “naturally” than others; but it is a skill that can be fostered and improved, and there are good reasons to do it.
- Laughter leads to immediate increases in heart rate, respiratory rate, and oxygen consumption (similar to exercise) and is followed by muscle relaxation, as well as decreases in heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure
- A good belly laugh provides a physical workout for the lungs and abdominal muscles
- Laughing provides tension relief in the neck and shoulders
- Laughing may decrease stress hormones and enhance the immune system
- Laughter is a distraction from negative thoughts and feelings
- Laughter can provide social bonding with others
That’s why Dr. Madan Kataria started the movement known as Laughter Yoga back in 1995 in Mumbai. As a medical doctor, he was always intrigued with the concept of “Laughter is the best medicine”. So he started getting together with a group of people in a park every morning just to laugh — for no reason other than the joy of laughing.
Today Laughter Yoga has swept the globe and there are thousands of clubs in over 60 countries. People have joined together to laugh in workplaces, schools and public places. The groups have even inspired a documentary by Mira Nair, The Laughing Club of India.
Humor can be an advantage in the workplace, if used appropriately. Studies conducted by Melissa Wanzer of Canisius College have shown that employees have higher job satisfaction and view their managers more positively when the manager is perceived to be humor-oriented. She also found that humor can be a beneficial coping strategy for workers in high-stress occupations; and that students say they learn more from teachers who use humor in the classroom.
Laughter and humor may even protect you from heart disease. A University of Maryland study showed that people with heart disease laughed less often than others; and that they did not turn to humor as often as others did in response to daily life situations.
How can you start bringing more humor into your life? Begin by not taking yourself too seriously. Learn to recognize the absurdity in certain situations and just laugh at it. Build a humor library of movies, jokes, tv shows and cartoons that you can turn to when you need a laugh. Here are some of my favorites:
- I Love to Laugh from “Mary Poppins”
- Comic strips such as “Rhymes with Orange” and “Zits“
- “Modern Family“
- Miracle Max from “The Princess Bride”