Stress Reduction Gem: Laughter

LOLLaughing is essential to enjoying life. Many of us have days filled with stress, serious deadlines and daily doing, and we reserve laughing for vacations or maybe the weekend. When we are laughing because we see the silliness of a situation that may have originally seemed serious, we are doing a GREAT thing for ourselves, putting life into perspective. Real laughter is natural and the more you do it, the more it comes. You find yourself laughing at yourself or WITH someone, rather than at someone, and you are in the stress reduction, joy filled flow of laughter.

When was the last time you had a good belly laugh? Got one? Take a moment to think back and remember how you felt afterwards. Trying to remember what you were laughing about isn’t so important, but what the laughter got you is very important. Whether you felt relieved, alive, engaged, or other positive feelings, you benefited from laughter.

Laughing peopleThe trick is to laugh often and easily from a genuine place. We may think that we can only have a good laugh when with good friends, or when on a vacation, but it’s available to us anytime.

Laugh for one minute right now. Close your eyes and breathe fully and easily. Now think of a situation that is currently stressful for you. Feel the stress in your mind and body. Allow your mind and body to become neutral for a moment, where you aren’t thinking about the stress. Let a smile come across your face as easily as doing it on purpose can, and allow laughter to come. You may feel like a freak, but stay with it, let the laughter really inhabit your whole body. Laugh! If you’re in a public place where you need to be quite and you can’t find a place to freely be loud, you can still do a full body laugh without so much sound, don’t worry about it.

After one minute of laughter you will probably have gotten over the self-consciousness and actually felt that you were laughing. How do you feel now? When you think about the stressful situation, did your perspective shift?

Dr. Lee Berk, along with fellow researcher Dr. Stanley Tan at Loma Linda University School of Medicine, has taken up carefully controlled studies that show the experience of laughter lowers serum cortisol levels, increases the amount of activated T lymphocytes, increases the number and activity of natural killer cells, and increases the number of T cells that have helper/ suppresser receptors.

This is powerful evidence that laughter stimulates the immune system and this off-sets the immunosuppressive effects of stress. Laughter is powerful medicine!