They say laughter is the best medicine. But who are “they”, and what does that really mean? And what about when life doesn’t really feel all that funny… like when you’re in the midst of a lockdown to tackle a global pandemic with a recession looming on the horizon!? Can laughter help? At Lime, we’re always keen to bring you little tips that might help you lead a healthier and happier life, so when somebody mentioned to one of our team that laughter could bring better mental health we got straight on the case. Here are 5 things we’ve learned about why it’s good to laugh (especially in a lockdown / global pandemic / recession).
- Laughter really is the best medicine. (OK, disclaimer: Perhaps it’s not the BEST medicine, because, obviously that would really be something, but it turns out it is pretty good for you). Research has shown that laughter has a positive impact on your immune system, on your cardiovascular system and on your brain. A study in the US found that just 20 seconds of laughter could be as good for the lungs as three minutes spent on a rowing machine! It has also been found to increase the type of immune cells associated with attacking virus and tumour cells. Impressive, huh?
- Laugh in the face of stress. That sounds glib, but it turns out laughter therapy is a type of cognitive-behavioural therapy that really can help reduce unpleasant feelings such as tension, anxiety, hatred, and anger and even alleviate stress and depression. Laughing reduces the level of stress hormones in our bodies and increases levels of hormones that make us feel good (and reduce pain) – endorphins! Ho ho ho isn’t just for Christmas!
- Sharing a laugh helps us connect to other people. Research from the US found that when people shared laughter (laughed together at the same thing), they felt more positively about each other and felt that they had more similarities, which is an important building block of relationships. And a review of over 39 studies involving 15,000 people around the world concluded that shared laughter is a good indicator of whether a relationship will be a success.
- When it comes to laughter, fake it to make it! Strangely, although you can immediately tell when you hear fake laughter, your body doesn’t “know” the difference between fake smiles and laughter and the real deal when you’re doing it yourself. You don’t actually need to find anything funny to start laughing. (Although, if you start fake laughing with a few “ha ha ha, hee hee hees” you will often find yourself starting to laugh for real). So, don’t worry, if you don’t feel particularly cheerful, even fake laughter can bring real benefits!
- A laugh, from us to you. Sold on the benefits of laughter? Why not give laughter yoga a try? You can find a good explanation of how to do it here: https://www.wikihow.com/Do-Laughter-Yoga. And try bringing a little humour into your daily life, no matter how difficult that may seem. Send a meme to a friend, watch a funny TV show, look up some jokes and shout one over to your neighbour. It all adds up to help make the world seem a brighter place.
And, of course, we have to end with a joke. Prof Richard Wiseman’s 2001 project Laughlab set out to find the world’s funniest joke using scientific methods. These came out on top. Which is funnier? We’ll let you decide:
- Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn’t seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy whips out his phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps, “My friend is dead! What can I do?”. The operator says “Calm down. I can help. First, let’s make sure he’s dead.” There is a silence, then a shot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says “OK, now what?”
- Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are going camping. They pitch their tent under the stars and go to sleep. In the middle of the night Holmes wakes Watson up: "Watson, look up at the stars, and tell me what you deduce."
Watson: "I see millions of stars and even if a few of those have planets, it's quite likely there are some planets like Earth, and if there are a few planets like Earth out there, there might also be life."
Holmes: "Watson, you idiot, somebody's stolen our tent!"