Most of us have heard the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”  What if I were to tell you some laughter each day keeps the pain away?

Research has shown that laughter is healthy.  Laughter has been proven to have numerous physical and emotional benefits such as: improving mood, alleviating stress, improved oxygen to the brain, reduction in physical pain and relaxing the body.

I find that laughter is one of the best stress management techniques.  In a tight economy, laughter is free. I am also a big believer in laughing at and through my pain.  I will sometimes share a story with friends about something hurtful, embarrassing, or difficult and when I begin to laugh they ask why.  I simply tell them, “Sometimes I have to laugh so I don’t cry.”

Laughter brings about a physical release, not to mention the reduction of stress-related hormones such as cortisol.  Since laughter releases endorphins, it is also a natural relaxant and painkiller; the more you laugh, the better you feel.  Laughter also works as a distraction.  It increases the production of the “feel good” neurotransmitters and hormones such as dopamine and oxytocin. In a moment of negative feelings, a good laugh can change the course and bring about positive energy.

I can recall facilitating a group therapy session one morning and making no progress.  The clients were cranky, frustrated, and the overall mood was BLAH!  I announced to the group that we were switching gears and asked everyone to close their eyes. I heard the sighs of clients as they assumed they were about to be lead into a guided relaxation exercise. Imagine their surprise when I instructed them to think of something funny and to laugh out loud.

For at least the first 45 seconds there was complete silence, then a client erupted in laughter and that was all it took. One by one they all started to laugh.  We sat in group and laughed for a few minutes, some laughing at their thoughts, others laughing at the laughs of others. When the laughter was over, we moved into the planned discussion and it was by far one of the most productive group therapy sessions I remember.  For those few minutes, clients were able to let down their guards, put the negative energy aside, and move into a more positive state.

Laughter is contagious and again, it’s also free. The next time you get down in the dumps, find something to laugh about.  Share a funny story and share the laughter.  You may not only improve your mood, but you can change the course of someone else’s day as well.

English comic actor Charlie Chaplin was quoted saying, “A day without laughter is a day wasted.”  Don’t waste your life by taking it too seriously.

Live, laugh, laugh and laugh again.

Photo by Don LaVange, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.