Recently, at a residential conference, I found myself unexpectedly partaking in a laughter workshop. I had never come across such a thing before but I have to say that it was a wonderful half hour of deliciously silly, side-splitting joy, which began with a single smile! Reflecting on it since, it has occurred to me that God, the creator of all things, designed us to smile and to laugh, and designed smiling and laughter to be highly beneficial, and highly contagious!
Doctors tell us it is a medical fact that laughter is jolly good for both our physical and mental health, such that it can help us to live longer. Laughter is indeed the best medicine:
Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving our muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after. It increases energy, enabling us to stay focused and accomplish more.
Laughter boosts the immune system, improving our resistance to disease.
Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, which bring a sense of well-being, and can even temporarily relieve pain.
Laughter protects the heart by improving the function of blood vessels and increasing blood flow.
Laughter burns calories. One study found that laughing for 10 to 15 minutes a day can burn about 40 calories (yes, it will take a while to lose much weight by it but it does help over time!).
Laughter shifts perspective, allowing us to see situations in a less threatening light. We can’t feel anxious, angry or sad when we’re laughing.
And on top of all of those benefits, smiling and laughter draws us closer to others, which can have a profound effect on all aspects of our mental, emotional and social wellbeing.
University research suggests that in one day, the average child laughs hundreds of times, whilst the average adult laughs only 15. There are times when the weight of our sadness and anxiety makes it very hard to laugh – times when lament is what is needed. But let’s see if we can find ways that help us to laugh more. It’s jolly good for us and for those around us . . . . and it starts with a single smile.