Counseling Corner: Laughing your way to better health

American Counseling Association | 2/19/2018, 3:58 a.m.
There are many factors that can have negative effects on us, but sometimes it’s important to focus on those things ...
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American Counseling Association

There are many factors that can have negative effects on us, but sometimes it’s important to focus on those things that can actually improve the quality of our lives. Yes, exercise, eating right and getting plenty of sleep all can contribute to better physical and mental health, but another even simpler antidote that is often overlooked is making sure to laugh frequently.

Laughing is a natural part of life. As infants, we started smiling within our first few weeks and were laughing out loud within just months. Unfortunately, as we get older and life gets more serious, the ability to laugh can sometimes be diminished. Fortunately, you can learn to laugh again regardless of age.

How does laughing help? In addition to adding joy to your life, it’s also a means to ease anxiety and reduce tension. Laughter has been shown to be an important stress reducer. A good, strong laugh can even help relieve physical tension, leaving muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes.

Experts have often said laughing releases endorphins, the body’s “feel good” chemicals. Laughter also decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells, improving your body’s resistance to disease. And one study in Norway found that people with a strong sense of humor tended to outlive those who didn’t laugh as much.

So, how to get more laughter in your life? Start with a smile. Smiling, whether to family, friends, co-workers or even to strangers on the street, sends out a positive message and makes you feel better, too. It’s difficult to be smiling and in a bad mood at the same time. Plus, others will smile back, and that’s also nice.

You can increase your laughter quota by searching out things that make you happy. Maybe it’s playing with a small child or a family pet. Maybe it’s taking the time to find a funny movie, TV show or a video on YouTube. Try reading a humorous book, or sharing a good joke or funny story with others. Read the comics, watch a comedian on TV, or have a night out at your local comedy club.

Yes, life can be serious and we can’t always be laughing, but putting a little extra effort into trying to find the funny in your life can leave you feeling happier while providing real benefits to your physical health and mental well-being.

Counseling Corner is provided by the American Counseling Association. Comments and questions can be sent to acacorner@counseling.org or visit http://www.counseling.org.