You may remember the Robin Williams movie, Patch Adams that illustrated how humor provided relief in a hospital setting. Based on the true story of Dr. Hunter “Patch” Adams, the story holds more than a little truth when it comes to using laughter as a tool for stress management.
Here are just some of the health benefits that laughter and humor provide:
- Lower hypertension
- Reduces stress
- Relaxes the body
- Triggers the release of endorphins which promote happiness and relaxation
- Cleanses the lungs of stale air
- Boosts the immune system
- Increases muscle flexibility
- Boosts the production of T-cells
- Helps us keep life’s problems in perspective
It’s a commonly quoted fact that adults laugh about 15 times a day while children laugh about 400 times. No wonder the problems of the world and life in general, sometimes get us down.
Study on Stress Hormones and Laughter
A study led by Lee Berk at Loma Linda University in California showed that laughter not only lowers blood pressure and boosts mood-elevating endorphins, but even anticipating a fun event can lower the three main stress hormones: cortisol, adrenaline and dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC).
This study focused on 16 men. Half were told they would be watching a humorous video they had selected earlier, and half were told they would be sitting in a room reading magazines as a control group. The researchers measured hormone levels throughout the study and noted that 30 minutes after the video was over, cortisol was down 67%, adrenaline was down 35%, and DOPAC was down 69%. The surprise was that even before the group watched the video, the anticipation of laughter lowered cortisol by 39%, adrenaline by 70% and DOPAC by 38%.
The power of feel-good chemicals produced by the body should not be underestimated for stress management. They are believed to be up to 200 times more powerful than morphine and side effects are zero.
Ways to Use Laughter as Stress Management
Now we know the value of laughter to reduce stress and cortisol levels, we need to adopt some sure-fire ways to increase laughter in our lives. Here are 10 suggestions:
- Read some funny jokes from a book, or search the internet
- See humor in everyday life. There’s always something to smile about, such as wearing odd socks to work!
- Plan a fun evening with some light-hearted friends
- Spend time with younger members of the family; they are always able to raise a smile
- Rent a funny movie – and anticipate laughter, just like in the study
- Collect and share humorous sayings and true funny stories
- Look out for a funny advertisement, ridiculous billboard or humorous commercial that makes you smile
- Practice fake laughing as if you’re auditioning for a part. Even fake laughter triggers a response so spend a few minutes a day managing stress by perfecting that laugh out loud
- Get together with friends and workmates and have a laughing contest. The effect is contagious and will soon have you laughing for real!
- Find a few more funny activities as part of your stress management activity.