Laughing is good for you – it’s been scientifically proven. So let’s get laughing more often. Ally Parker unveils the science behind laughter which boosts our health and happiness.
WORDS Ally Parker
If you’ve ever seen Mary Poppins you’ll probably remember crazy Uncle Albert laughing his way up to the ceiling and, more importantly, having afternoon tea up there. What if I told you that this feat of gravity was possible? After all, laughter didn’t get its reputation as the best medicine for nothing. Apart from floating you to the roof and abandoning you there for days, laughter also boasts a cornucopia of physical, mental and emotional benefits. Having a good giggle releases endorphins, reduces inflammation, relaxes muscles and alters pain perception. As if that wasn’t enough, laughing also possesses the magic ability to boost the immune system and help the circulatory and digestive systems. Solid effort laughter, well done!
In fact, there aren’t a lot of physiological functions that laughter doesn’t lend a hand to. For example, if you’re like me and have the lung capacity of a dead squirrel, you can now ditch the inhaler because our good friend laughter improves lung capacity and strength. The down side is that you can no longer use asthma as an excuse to skip the gym but don’t worry because all that laughing is going to give you a damn fine ab workout. Bonus: you can use the power of your newfound six-pack and the allure of the laugh to show off to that sexy something because laughter also makes you seem more attractive (as long as you brush your teeth).
Mentally, laughter helps fight depression and anxiety, boosts creativity, willingness to learn and interestingly, self-discipline. It is because of these mental health boons that a little something called ‘Laughter Yoga’ exists. The group chanting of “Ho, Ho, Ha, Ha” whilst cleansing your aura with your foot, results in real laughter, real happiness and a bendy body . For the sceptic in you who is at this point shutting down the whole concept of fake laughter being beneficial, let me break it down. Unlike fake tan which, ladies and gents, everyone knows is fake, the body can’t tell the difference between a genuine cackle and a fake chortle. It just knows it loves it.
[quote]“The more I laugh the more I’m a merrier me.” – Mary Poppins[/quote]
With the proliferation of the smart phone and tablet, many of us are losing our sought after work/life balance (don’t mention this to your parents, they call it ‘lazy wishful thinking’). The stress of carrying work around with you in your pocket when you leave the office is making us all a little cranky… and more prone to disease (like the stress itself wasn’t enough). These include chronic pain, cardiovascular illnesses, anxiety, eating disorders, even cancer. All of this because you’re stuck in a bad state of mind. Finally, for all those students out there who have to struggle through group projects each semester with Beavis and Butthead, laughter is also rumoured to help with team building and may just win you that distinction despite everyone else’s inability to do anything.
Next time your computer crashes and deletes your assignment or you find that the fabulous top you bought yesterday is now 70 per cent off, take a deep breath, stand a little straighter and giggle hysterically to yourself rather than consort to screaming at the nearest man, woman or child. Let laughter give you a quick cathartic release. After all, why go to jail when you can go to the loony bin?
To be clear, I’m not endorsing Nelson Muntz’s perfunctory “Ha, Ha”; nor am I suggesting you manically throw your head back and hee-haw to the high heavens. I’m suggesting that you see the funny side more often, give a little guffaw, even when you don’t feel like it, and be happier.