The Best Prescription for Stress and Depression: Laughter

Does laughter really reduce stress and depression and make us happier and healthier?Some researchers say that the definitive research into the potential health benefits of laughter just hasn’t been done. Yet, there have been many studies indicating that laughter can affect stress levels and your immune system. Those studies are the ones I will focus on here.

A good laugh shuts off the flow of stress hormones like cortisol and thus turns off our fight or flight response to fear or anger. Stress hormones also suppress our immune system; thus humor and positive thoughts can help reduce and prevent potentially more serious illnesses. When you laugh, your brain releases endorphins and serotonin. These are nature’s own feel good chemicals and are responsible for promoting a sense of well-being and relaxation. Having a sense of humor and laughing also relieves physical tension by stimulating circulation and helping your muscles relax. This in turn assists in relieving some of the symptoms of stress. One researcher estimated that laughing 100 times is equal to fifteen minutes on an exercise bike. I bet most of you can attest to feeling exhausted after some hearty laughing.

Having a sense of humor helps people see things from a more realistic and less threatening perspective. It can make you feel safer and less overwhelmed when facing life’s challenges. Laughter is social, so any health benefits might result from being close with friends and family, and not the laughter itself. Yet I think we can all attest to the fact that laughing together increases our emotional connections with people. A good sense of humor, a positive attitude, and the support of family and friends is therapeutic for sure.

On average, children laugh about 400 times a day compared to adults who laugh about 15 times. That makes sense, as laughter and play are closely linked, and kids play more than adults. Make your house fun with lots of merriment, play, and joking around so that your home becomes the one where all kids want to hang out. Many of my children’s favorite memories are times when we were laughing and having fun. That’s why my two sons and I love talking in movie lines, especially the ones from slapstick comedy movies.

Research, common sense, and experience confirms that the best prescription for preventing and coping with stress and depression is a good, hearty laugh. Laughter truly is the best medicine.

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