Written by Caileigh Flannigan
In times of increased everyday stress and anxiety due to work pressure, relationships, and fast-paced lifestyles, we push aside the personal time that is necessary for our minds and bodies to recharge. In turn, we become even more stressed, tired, and unhappy – and this cycle continues week to week. The good news is that there are two really simple ways to overcome the stressors of everyday life: smiling and laughing. Smiling and laughing are powerful yet simple ways to remain balanced day to day. These two actions can relieve stress, fear, pain, and conflict. When we smile and laugh, we support our physical, mental, and social health.
How Laughter and Smiling Affects Your Physical Health
They Release Chemicals. When we smile, the movements of our muscles send signals to our brains. These signals release serotonin and endorphins, which are known as the “feel-good” chemicals of the brain. These chemicals make us happy when they are released, and they can reduce perceptions of pain.
They Relax the Body. Laughter, particularly a good hard belly laugh, can relieve built-up body tension and stress. When we laugh, the muscles we use to do so will relax, and they can stay relaxed for 30–45 minutes after that.
They Reduce Stress. When endorphins are released in the brain, stress hormones, such as cortisol, are reduced. When we feel stressed, anxious, or fearful, our bodies release more cortisol. This cortisol release creates negative, unpleasant, stressful feelings. We can lower our cortisol levels by laughing and relaxing.
They Support Lung Health. When we laugh, our lungs expand and become replenished with oxygen. We let a lot of air out and a lot of air in. This process is similar to deep breathing techniques used to relieve stress. Deep laughter sends more oxygen-rich nutrients and blood throughout the body.
They Support Heart Health. Laughing on a regular basis lowers blood pressure, increases blood flow, and improves the function of blood vessels, which can all decrease your risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.
They Promote a Healthy Immune System. Laughter is a great way to reduce stress hormones and increase “feel-good” hormones. Due to these processes and changes in chemicals, our immune systems increase the numbers of white blood cells and other infection-fighting antibodies. This improves our everyday health and protects us from viruses.
They Serve as Exercise. A good laugh is also good exercise. It burns calories, provides our body with movement, increases conditioning and toning, and keeps our cardio systems working.
How Laughter and Smiling Affect Your Mental Health
Smiling and laughter not only support our physical health but also have similar effects on our mental health. They are powerful tools for releasing difficult emotions and making us feel good. When strong emotions such as anger, sadness, or fear are present, laughing can alleviate some of that emotional distress.
Smiling and laughter are great ways to reduce stress, and laughing during stressful times helps us stay focused on tasks, accomplish more in a day, and be proud of what we have done. When we remain attentive during our busy work or home lives, we can get more done and have the freedom to engage in fun activities.
The ability to smile and laugh during times of stress lets us shift our perspective to something more positive. This means you can see tough or challenging situations in a new light that is less restricting and threatening. By using smiling and laughter as a strategy during tough times, you can begin to feel less overwhelmed and therefore happier.
When we smile, it influences not only ourselves but also those around us. Have you ever seen someone smile and smiled too? Have you seen a child laughing and started to laugh with them? This is because laughter is mediated by social interaction and contexts. Smiles and laughter are contagious because when we see someone else happy, we become happy too. The happiness we feel when we laugh or smile extends to others and helps strengthen relationships. When we are happy and playful with others, it supports emotional connections with people who are close to us. Positive relationships involve humor, play, and happiness.
In team settings, humor and laughing can enhance how successful a group is. Laughter can promote group bonding and help navigate through disagreements, resentments, and conflict. When we can exhibit humor and laughter in a negative situation, it becomes light-hearted. In stressful group meetings or situations, humor is a powerful tool to encourage a strong, happy group.
Sometimes, busy days do not have room for much else. We tend to push aside fun or personal activities because we have deadlines to meet, children to drive to extracurricular activities, or worries about tomorrow’s work. Here are some simple, fun ways to keep smiles and laughter a part of your everyday routine:
Laughter Yoga and Exercise
Laughter yoga, an technique to promote laughter and exercise, is becoming more popular across the globe. This technique focuses on the concept that there is a link between the body and the brain and that laughter can enhance that link. It’s main idea is that your body knows how to laugh even if your mind is not happy or in the mood to laugh. Therefore, you do not need to have a sense of humor or even be happy during these exercises.
During these exercises, the group takes a series of breaths between laughs and facial poses that promote relaxation in the body and mind. Often, when people begin to engage in different kinds of laughter, the laughter becomes real because having many people laugh together in a group setting multiplies each laugh. Each person’s laugh promotes laughter in another, and so on. Therefore, contagious laughing occurs.
The simplest way to have a happier, healthier life is to laugh and smile more. By creating more opportunities for laughter and smiling in your life, you will begin to flourish as a person, a friend, and a professional. Your day-to-day life will become more relaxed, positive, balanced, and creative. Laughter and smiling provides our bodies and minds with the necessary recharges we require in our busy lives.
Source: Fix.com Blog