If you haven’t had a good laugh lately, you may want to consider engaging in humorous thoughts or funny activities that put a smile on your face—your good health counts on it! Whether it’s a case of the giggles or an uncontrollable belly laugh, humor has incredible healing powers. The importance of humor to your well-being is even reinforced in an old proverb that says “What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul.”
Here’s a look at five incredible healing powers of humor.
1. Builds a stronger immune system
The increase of oxygen in the body keeps blood moving, boosting overall circulation, and contributing to good health. Furthermore, the feel-good sensations associated with laughter send signals to the body that aid in stress reduction. Since chronic levels of stress contribute to inflammation and can wreak havoc on the system, finding more humor in life is essential.
There’s even the case of Norman Cousins, author of the book “Anatomy of an Illness.” Cousins explains how watching old Marx Brothers movies saw him through an extremely challenging illness. He’s sure that humor cured him, crediting his many hours of watching funny movies as the reason for his going on to live a healthy, long life.
2. Improves mood
When you’re having a bad day, there’s something to be said for watching a silly YouTube video or listening to a friend’s latest funny story. As it turns out, the laughs that result can give your mood a much-needed pick-me-up.
However, if you’re tired of videos, certain “overly entertaining” people, or are not in the mood to hit a comedy club, consider yoga. Yes, yoga! Believe it or not, such a thing as “laughter yoga” exists, and it’s based on the notion that the body cannot differentiate between real and fake laughter. As the contagiousness of laughter spreads among strangers, moods are elevated.
3. Reduces pain
Research has shown that humor plays a role in the ability to handle pain. In one study conducted at the University of Oxford, it was determined that just 15 minutes of laughter-evoking videos led people to experience a 10% increase in their threshold for pain. Experts say that a series of events unfolds that makes this possible. Firstly, a person often engages in several long exhalations while laughing. This induces a sort of physical exhaustion that engages stomach muscles and releases endorphins, or the feel-good chemicals. These chemicals, in turn, better enable people to tolerate pain.
4. Bolsters self-confidence
Are you hard on yourself, often looking at life experiences as hurdles to overcome rather than moments to learn from and enjoy? If you do something that makes you feel foolish—even something as minor as forgetting where you left the keys—and you mentally beat yourself up, you’re not doing your self-confidence any favors. A cyclical pattern develops, in which virtually everything is an upsetting experience.
Instead of giving in to these frustrations, turn to humor to heal yourself from ongoing negative thoughts. Try to see the funny element behind an error you made, perhaps envisioning it as a scenario that would have made a good Seinfeld episode. Or, create an “imagine if” thought, in which you mentally play out humorous, exaggerated events that you know would never happen because (for example) you were searching for your keys for 10 minutes. Find the silliness in your actions or the situations facing you, and you’ll find yourself smiling your way to improved self-confidence in no time.
5. Fights fears about serious life issues
Fear, especially if it pertains to a physical or mental illness, can hold you back from learning more about your condition and coping. Instead of feeling too afraid to confront others, ask questions, or otherwise communicate what’s on your mind, seek out humor to help.
While at first, it may seem strange to laugh about something as serious as depression or cancer, many people have found that engaging with others in a funny manner actually helps them to open up. Not only does it lighten the mood, but it gets people shaking their heads as if to say they can relate to what a humorous presenter is saying.
From there, you’d be surprised at how easy it is to express yourself, even when you may have struggled to do so previously. Once you hear someone else position experience in a somewhat funny context, it’s less threatening to confront fears about the illness or challenging situation. In turn, this change enables you to see that you’re not alone and that it’s often okay to laugh.
So, try to find the humor around you. Even if you not surrounded by people who rattle off jokes like it’s going out of style, you can turn to the Internet or a favorite comedy to feel better. Even just the act of remembering funny moments from your past can put a smile on your face or get you to burst out laughing.