“A good laugh heals a lot of hurts” – Madeleine L’Engle
“Laughter is an instant vacation” – Milton Berle
“Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand” – Mark Twain
When was the last time you had a good laugh?
The kind of laugh that makes you hold your sides and has you smiling for moments afterwards?
Developing an effective self-care plan can incorporate many types of activities; some of the most common are getting massages, meditating, exercise, seeing a therapist, staying connected socially, connecting with nature, etc. While each person’s self-care plan is unique, one of the most common factors that relate to self-care involves incorporating humor and laughter into your daily activities.
The art of comedy and humor has been used for generations by people to cope with stressful situations and for self-expression. There has been research of the practical applications of the benefits of laughter and humor as an effective self-care tool.
Why laughter? — What are the benefits?
Research has shown that there are both psychological and physiological benefits related to laughter and humor:
Psychological Benefits of Laughter:
- Reduces stress, anxiety, and tension, and counteracts symptoms of depression
- Improves mood, reduces the stress response
- Enhances memory and creative thinking
- Improves interpersonal interaction and reduces isolation
- Increases friendliness and helpfulness
- Increases ability to cope with difficult situations
Physiological Benefits of Laughter:
- Increases endorphins that the brain releases, which can improve mood
- Enhances intake of oxygen-rich air that stimulates heart, lungs, muscles
- Improves immune system. Positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more serious illnesses.
- Relaxes and exercises muscles
- Increases pain threshold and tolerance
“Laughter connects you with people. It’s almost impossible to maintain any kind of distance or any sense of social hierarchy when you’re just howling with laughter. Laughter is a force for democracy.” – John Cleese
Ways to Use Humor as Self-Care
- Watch standup comedies/comedic films/comedy sitcoms; listen to a funny podcast
- Read humor-related books, magazine articles
- Watch your favorite cartoons that you used to watch as a child
- Write a silly short story or poem
- Connect with a good friend whom you can be silly with
- Draw or paint fun images
- Post funny comic strips or pictures that make you smile in your office and/or home
- Make someone else laugh! When you help others smile and laugh, you are also sharing in the laugh and connecting with someone else
It is easy for us to become involved in the day-to-day stress, so even if you have to set a reminder to take a moment to do something fun, even if it’s only for a few minutes, you’ll be reaping important benefits for your body and mind. So go ahead and watch that silly cat video and share it with a friend! You’ll both get a good laugh and be taking care of each other in the process.
About the Author
Vanessa Brown is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in San Francisco’s Well Clinic. In her own words, “I work to provide a non-judgmental and safe space for individuals to be their authentic selves.”