The saying goes that laughter is the best medicine and there's no denying the fact that our spirits lift when we smile or laugh. But why exactly is it so therapeutic and what can we do to make sure humour remains a constant component of our everyday lives?
National Humour Month kicked off on 1st April. Also known as April Fool's Day, 1st April is a day when it's culturally OK to laugh, joke and prank our friends and family. The sentiment behind National Humour Month is more serious - it's about raising awareness of the therapeutic value of humor; what happens to our bodies, our mental wellbeing and our quality of life when we laugh and joke.
As good for you as exercise - and much more fun!
The fact that laughter is good for you is grounded in scientific research too. In one study, diabetic patients saw their blood sugar levels rise less after eating a meal at a comedy show, because laughing improves digestion and speeds up respiration and blood circulation. It has also been claimed that laughing 100 or more times a day may have the same health benefits as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise!
We laugh at people, more than we do at actual jokes
In another study, students observed more than 1000 people laughing spontaneously in their natural environments. They found that mostly we laugh at other people rather than actual jokes - the way they relay stories, observe everyday life and provide commentary on the ordinary and mundane. This goes to suggest that if we surround ourselves with happy people, it will rub off on us too. It's the act of laughing that makes people feel better - rather than what we laugh at - so a good sense of humour and a positive attitude play a role in the health benefits we experience, too.
It's OK to fake it
The best news is that the benefits you get from laughing can be realised whether your laughter is real - or forced! It's all about the physical act of laughing. While you may feel awkward at first, you will soon lose your inhibitions and natural laughter will follow - along with the benefits to your wellbeing.
So, why exactly is laughing so good for us?
• A good laugh relieves tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.
• Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies.
• Laughter releases endorphins, the body's natural feel-good chemicals, which makes us feel happy and can help relieve pain.
• Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow.
Remember, laughing is for life - not just April, but why not use National Humour Month as the catalyst to welcome more laughter into your life? It can only be good for you.