The U.S. media has an ongoing fascination with Americans’ health and well-being - we’re too fat, too thin, too sedentary, too obsessive about fitness and looks (or not concerned enough), too many lifestyle-related illnesses – the list is endless. One thing every media outlet does seem to agree on is that we are experiencing more negative stress than at any other time in history. And stress impacts our overall health on multiple levels – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social. Stressors impacting one aspect of our health often affect other areas as well. Feeling frustrated (an emotional stress response) after a long day or grueling commute? The muscles in your shoulders are probably tight and way up by your ears, or you’ve developed a headache (emotional stress creating physical stress). Keep up this cycle long enough and your overall health can be affected.
We can never eliminate all the stressors in our lives, but to prevent a domino effect that impacts our overall health, it’s important to focus on managing our stress levels. One easy way to bring down stress levels requires no cash outlay, no trip to the gym or therapist, and no huge time commitment. And you can carry it with you wherever you go. All you have to do is…laugh.
Chuckles, guffaws or belly laughs – the health benefits are no laughing matter and a great way to unwind and relieve stress. Laughter not only lifts our mood and makes the world feel a little brighter, it causes physical changes as well. Endorphins are released that can counteract negative feelings , circulation is stimulated and more oxygen-rich blood flows through our bodies, and we breathe more fully and deeply. Over time, if we keep on laughing and dispelling negative stress, our body’s immune system receives a boost, neuropeptides are released to help fight disease, and pain is lessened.
How can you use laughter to relieve stress in your life?
- Watch a funny movie or sitcom (I love “Modern Family” http://abc.go.com/shows/modern-family and hear “The Hangover” http://hangovermovie.warnerbros.com/ is hilarious).
- Go to a comedy club.
- Read a silly book.
- Watch kids play.
- You can even check out Laughter Yoga: http://www.laughteryoga.org/.
- See John Cleese experience Laughter Yoga: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXEfjVnYkqM
- Need help destressing? Try iStress: http://www.psiappsinc.com/iphone-applications-istress.html, a stress management app that teaches relaxation techniques and thinking skills (including the use of humor) to combat stress and anxiety.