I recently came across a video of two kids opening up their Christmas gift and being consumed with pure joy and excitement. I was taken aback by their reaction of receiving the gift because it was a banana. That’s right- A BANANA. I was amazed at their response of screams, clapping hands, and embracing their banana.
This inspired me to think about all of the seemingly insignificant things in life that elate us; the smell of a favorite meal being prepared to having a chance to sleep in after a busy week are some notorious ones. The adage, “laughter is the best medicine,” stood out to me. It seems so simple to just enjoy life’s pleasures, but an “adulting” lifestyle can easily present barriers for enjoyment. Understanding the power of taking time to laugh will be the focal point of this read. Enjoy!
Science of Laughter
Here are a few fun facts: Gelotology is the study of laughter or humor, and the psychological and physiological effects it has on an individual. This field was largely pioneered by William F. Fry, professor at Stanford University. Laughing is the physical and auditory response we have to a stimuli. It can manifest in a wide range of tones and pitches- cackles, grunts, chuckles, and giggles. The brain is divided into four main sections: frontal lobe, temporal lobe (left and right side) parietal lobe (middle) and occipital lobe (back). Located in the frontal lobe is the limbic system. The two structures that cause laughter are located inside the limbic system; they are the amygdala and the hippocampus.
Benefits of Laughter
Laughter is knowingly one of the most enjoyable experiences we can have. It’s so ironic that the very thing that is easily within our reach to experience is undermined with the benefits that it can provide to us.
Laughing is good for the heart! It reduces stiffness of blood vessels and increases flexibility. This benefit decreases the likeliness of having a heart attack. So, when you have the opportunity to have that outburst of laughter, let it out. Laughter fights off infection! According to WanderLust media, “Laughter is associated with an increased production of cells, primarily the bone marrow and thymus cells. These cells are considered to be specialized in enhancing our immune system by tracking the patterns of our behaviors and interactions.”
Ever wondered why when you’re in a funk or stressed, and something funny happens, it momentarily breaks the negativity that you were just feeling? Laughter affects our mood by interrupting distressing feelings. It’s almost impossible to feel angry, worried, or sad AND laugh at the same moment.
It feels good to be around people who make us feel good. The hormone oxytocin is released when we are literally in company that uplifts us. In addition, the ability to find humor and laughter can liberate us, which provides the space to be your authentic self. The Social Anxiety Institute states that, ”laughter allows us to express our true feelings. If we can consistently use laughter in our lives, it will have a positive effect on our relationships and our well-being.” Be encouraged to feel good in times of disappointment, loss, and actively learning to be optimistic.
Creating the Time
It is important that we understand and believe we are worthy of feeling good about ourselves. In fact, it is truly our responsibility to prioritize our well being. The question is, how or what does it look like to take time to laugh? Here are some techniques and steps to incorporate laughing in your life:
● Spend time doing what makes you feel good. Really, carve time out of the day or week to indulge in humor or laughter. It’s all around us.
● Smile! Don’t take yourself too seriously. Life happens and will always continue to happen. In the midst of the ebbs and flows, remember to smile because it is contagious!
● Adapt a mindset of gratitude. I was once asked, if you woke up tomorrow and only had the things you were thankful for the day before, what would my life look like? WHEW. Implement a tracking system where you can visually see the things that you are grateful for.
● Stay connected (to healthy connections). Identify your tribe, loved ones, ‘framily” and lean into them to create and experience joyous moments.
Call to Action
Writing this blog was quite informative and such a great reminder for me to LAUGH! It has challenged me to put myself first and to connect with my tribe to be held accountable in doing so. I encourage you to connect with yourself and tap into your support system to encounter your “banana moment.” If you find it challenging or just may like to have some direction with navigating the barriers in your life that interferes with happiness, please feel free to reach out to a therapist near you!
“Your body cannot heal without play. Your mind cannot heal without laughter. Your soul cannot heal without joy.” – Catherine Rippenger Fenwick
Written by therapist Sharda Wright
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