I recently attended a laugh circle at Gilda’s Club where I was reminded about the fantastic health benefits of laughter.
A good, hard laugh can actually do the same things to the body as a mild workout – muscles contract, your heart rate increases, more oxygen is pumped throughout your blood stream, and it actually burns a few calories.
Laughter can increase blood flow, boost your energy, increase immunity, lower blood sugar levels, increase relaxation, decrease pain, and help you sleep.
Sure, there’s no way to really know if laughter actually helps with all these or if they’re due to an overall positive attitude. Someone who is in a good mood tends to be more positive, and therefore laughs more. So does the laughter make someone healthy, or are healthy people just more likely to laugh? Either way, laughter isn’t hurting.
In order to receive all these amazing health benefits, I was told that we need to laugh at least 15 minutes per day. That’s a lot. If someone tells you a joke you may laugh for 30 seconds. Your kid says something funny and you laugh for another 30 seconds. You’re watching a funny movie and laugh for another 30 seconds. Now you only need 13 ½ more minutes of laughter.
How in the world can we possibly laugh that much? Every day!
Unfortunately, our brains are automatically drawn to negative thoughts. It’s just human nature. We tend to focus on all the things we aren’t good at instead of all our incredible strengths. We think about what we did wrong instead of all the things we’ve done right. All this negativity makes it hard to see the light-hearted side of life; makes it hard to find the humor.
I believe 15 minutes of laughter a day is achievable if we can just switch our focus from negative thoughts to positive ones. Start and end your day with a positive thought. This gets easier if you can start to make a habit of looking for positive things – look for positive qualities in people, look for positive things that you plan to do today or this year, look for positive qualities in you and your spouse. When a negative thought comes into your head, acknowledge it, and then send it away. There’s no need to act on it or say anything. If you can give yourself a minute to process the thought and realize it’s negative, you can allow your mind to push it out and replace it with something positive.
Acknowledging the negative thought is important because they’ll creep in occasionally no matter how positive you are. There’s nobody on this planet that can say they only think positive thoughts. The difference is there are those of us who have them, acknowledge them, and let them go and those of us who have them and react or dwell on them.
The people we surround ourselves with play a large part in our ability to laugh. Are you surrounding yourself with negative people? If so, it’s going to be very difficult to find joy in life if you’re being bombarded by other people’s negativity.
Remember that our children feed off our attitudes toward them and toward each other. They’re learning from us what’s okay; what’s acceptable. Teach them that laughter is the best medicine and a positive attitude will take them farther than a negative one any day.
Whether or not laughing actually improves our health, there’s no denying it improves our quality of life. Laughing with friends and family absolutely brings joy. And if more joy leads to a happier, healthier life then, “Yes please!”