One of the best things you can do to lower stress is to challenge yourself to find humor and laugh more every day. Studies show that episodes of laughter help to reduce pain, boost the immune system, and decrease stress-related hormones. Laughter also decreases the risk of heart disease, and reduces inflammation-the root of all chronic diseases. Laughing for only a minute or two can help you to feel better for hours. It may also help to:
- Improve sleep
- Promote an enhanced sense of perspective and wellbeing
- Trigger the release of endorphins (the body's natural painkillers)
- Balance blood pressure and ease digestive trouble
- Improve mental functions such as alertness, memory, and creativity
- We must build our "laughter muscle" just as we would any other. If you're having trouble getting started, the following ideas may be helpful:
- Make a comedy date with a friend or host a "humor night" where you play fun games, watch funny movies...etc.
- Stock up on some go-to websites, books, movies, and TV shows that get you laughing.
- Make it your mission to "focus on funny" and try to find humor in ordinary situations.
- Laugh even when you're not feeling happy-the body can't differentiate between authentic and "forced" laugher, and it will improve your mood.
- Think about small, specific steps you could take. For example, could you watch a 5 minute clip of a funny video at lunch? Could you think of a silly song to sing when you're stuck in traffic?
Though it can be hard to laugh when we're upset, it will actually make us feel better. So don't wait to be in a good mood-use laughter as a tool to feel good now. It may be challenging at first, but the payoffs are huge. And remember, practice, practice, practice! The more we get into the habit of finding and using humor, the easier it will become and the better we'll feel.