How does laughter lead to better health?

This past week my 4-year-old grandson asked me what a ducks favorite snack is.
I said that I didn’t know. He responded “Cheese and quackers! Ha-ha grandma, that’s
funny!” We’ve seen an emerging sense of humor for quite a while, and this was the first
joke he told. Of course, now everyone is hearing his joke and laughing (or at least pretending they are).

Jan Kwiatkowski, LMFT, is a psychotherapist and mental health consultant for Aurora Family Service in Milwaukee, WI.

Jan Kwiatkowski, LMFT, is a psychotherapist and mental health consultant for Aurora Family Service in Milwaukee, WI.

My grandson is discovering a basic human joy that we often overlook: the joy of sharing humor and laughter.

His first joke reminded me of how serious I often take myself, and the how much more enjoyable even the hardest day is, if I can find or create place for some laughter.

My guess is that many adults reading this often find themselves in the “taking ourselves too seriously”category. This can be especially true of those of us in the helping professions.

What experience and now, research, tells us is that laughter is indeed good for us:  body, mind and spirit. In a world of great complexity, we forget that a simple thing like laughter and good humor can make a difference. Maybe laughter can’t change or fix a situation, but it helps in lots of meaningful ways.

Here are 10 ways laughter and humor makes a difference:

  • Humor decreases worry, by changing or giving us some distance and perspective on any given situation.
  • Humor comforts. It gives us a sense that we can get through or that ultimately things will be OK.
  • Humor relaxes. Our bodies are so often in high gear, that slowing down is really hard. When we laugh, for just a few minutes our autonomic nervous system takes over giving our heart a chance to slow down and our bodies to relax.
  • Laughter boosts the immune system by increasing components in our blood. Who couldn’t use an immune system boost?
  • Humor cultivates optimism. This correlates with number one. It’s easier to be optimistic if we are worrying less.
  • Laughter is contagious. Just Google “baby laughing” and try not to laugh.
  • Laughter increases wellbeing by increasing endorphins in the body.
  • Laughter increases oxygenation, which means more oxygen to the brain and vital organs.
  • Laughter releases emotional and muscular tension.
  • Laughter gives our internal organs a massage, which also increases blood circulation.

How do you incorporate laughter into your day? Do you laugh during the day? How might you increase moments of good humor and laughter every day?

I, for one, will continue to delight and laugh at my grandson’s jokes, and perhaps
even tell a few. I’m going to do my best to notice when I am stressed and intense, and remember that a good laugh would help me gain some perspective. And with that better perspective, and increased oxygen going to my brain, I might more quickly and creatively solve problems.

Even if I can’t solve or fix everything, at least I, and the people around me, will enjoy
life a little more.

Aurora Family Service helps families overcome challenges, changes and crisis to live well again. We achieve stability and strength for families through counseling, parenting, elder care, financial, career, health and community services.  For more information, visit our website, follow us on Facebook, or call 1-414-342-4560.

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