When we think of the first day of April, April Fools’ Day comes to mind. April Fools’ Day is the traditional day of the year to play practical jokes on friends and family, with the intent of good fun and a few laughs. What is not as commonly known is that laughter and humor are good for our physical, emotional and mental health. According to the Mayo Clinic laughter has both short and long-term health benefits. However, many adults find humor and laughter to be an indulgence or have lost their sense of humor and playfulness for a number of reasons. Adding humor back may be just what the doctor ordered. Let’s explore not only the reasons why, but also how to lighten up.
Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine— Lord Byron
Based on recent medical research, Lord Byron was on the right track. A good laugh has many short and long-term health benefits. In the short-term a good laugh, increases the amount of oxygen we take in which in turn stimulates our internal organs as well as our circulation. In a way similar to aerobic exercise, the rise in oxygen when laughing also increases the endorphins released in our brain which makes us feel more positive. In addition, our muscles relax from the increase in circulation which leads to a more relaxed physical state.
Long term benefits are impressive as well. Laughing has been shown to improve our immune system. Just in the way that negative thoughts and stress cause a decrease in immune function, positive feeling can reverse this and benefit our health. Laughing can also decrease or relieve pain due to the increase in endorphins. Laughing can even increase the amount of calories burned and lead to weight loss.
Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can: all of them make me laugh. — W. H. Auden
Not only are there many physical health benefits from laughing, but also many positive mental, emotional and social benefits as well. Humor and playfulness reduces stress and anxiety, improves your mood and enhances relationships. Of course, this applies to good natured humor and laughing, not sarcasm or laughing at the expense of another. Those kinds of humor are damaging and are not beneficial. Positive humor attracts others toward us, allows for better teamwork and can reduce conflict.
Laughter is an instant vacation.- Milton Berle
In the words of the great comedian Milton Berle, laughter is an instant vacation. If you feel like your life is lacking good healthy humor and playfulness or zest, the good news is it is easy to add it back. Here are ways to increase your laughter and joy and make every day seem like a vacation:
- Start with a smile. Smiling is contagious and makes you feel more positive both when you smile and when other’s smile back. Don’t feel like smiling? Try this experiment: put a pencil between your teeth and hold for a minute. It’s the same as smiling and makes you feel instantly more positive.
- Watch humorous television shows, movies, video clips or read the comics. Visit websites that focus on humor. Keep things you find funny or make you smile around as daily reminders. Sign up for a joke of the day email or buy a calendar featuring humor.
- Humor grows when shared. Tell funny stories, recall humorous events or enjoy laughing with others. It lightens the mood, bonds people together and improves relationships.
- Find the humor in situations. Change your perspective by laughing about situations that frustrate you.
- Surround yourself with playful or joyful people whenever possible. Again just like negativity, joy is contagious.
- Spend time with children – children naturally love to play and laugh. Pets are also fun loving and enjoy play.
- Laugh at yourself instead of taking yourself so seriously. Sometimes it’s hard to do in the moment but it is a healthy way to let of self-righteousness.
- Just as it’s important to look for gratitude, it’s important to find humor. Ask yourself or family and friends to share what the funniest thing is that happened to them today is and laugh about it.
- Do fun things that encourage play and laughter. Play games, go to a comedy or improv show, sing karaoke or any activity that will be upbeat and light.
I would love to hear what makes you laugh. Please share by emailing me at . I have a FUN prize for the best story shared during the month of April.