Last week I wrote about what many of us consider to be the most serious topic of all: death. And while I hope you have thought about death in more accepting way since reading, I also recognize that a new practice in focusing on it can leave us not as sunny and chipper as we all like to feel.
Life is always both/and. So I thought this week I would touch on one of my favorite things to do in life— to laugh.
I love to laugh and although I blog about more “serious” topics, I truly laugh about almost everything. I love slapstick, goofy movies and commercials, silly jokes, and funny people. And don’t even get me started on TikTok… that app is a tech paradise for people who love to laugh. I don’t think I will ever tire of watching dogs with electronic voice overs.
I hope I don’t have to really tell you why you should laugh more. It just feels so good! But with the seriousness of life always either creeping in, on standby, or covering you like a suffocating blanket, you may need to practice some intentionality with finding ways to laugh.
According to research, the benefits of a good laugh can include:
- Increased blood flow. When you laugh, your brain releases beta-endorphins, which leads to the release of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a powerful chemical that dilates the endothelium, the inner lining of your blood vessels. Nitric oxide also reduces inflammation and prevents the buildup of cholesterol.
- It counts as cardio. Laughter has the same benefits of a cardio workout! It gets your heart pumping and burns the same amount of calories as walking. Not to mention, it lowers LDL cholesterol and raises HDL cholesterol.
- It strengthens your immune system. Studies show that laughing can boost your NK (natural killer) cells. NK cells are a type of white blood cell that play a major role in fighting off viruses and bacteria.
- Reduced stress. Cortisol and epinephrine are two of the hormones that are released when your body is exposed to stress. Long-term release of these hormones can lead to depression, anxiety, weight gain, and increase your risk of heart disease. Laughing reduces the stress hormones in your body, which opens up blood vessels and lowers blood pressure.
- The benefits last. Laughter is spontaneous and there are so many different types. Studies show that the effects of “mirthful” laughter can last 24 hours. Arteries stay relaxed and stress levels stay low.
In addition to laughing at so many things on the outside, I benefit greatly from laughing at myself. Being able to do this has been the result of truly believing that I have quirks and imperfections and then being able to have empathy and grace for myself. I am less embarrassed and more willing to truly “laugh it off” when I say or do something that I deem as “stupid yet harmless.”
I laughed while doing the sidestroke for almost my entire first triathlon swim, at every clever sign on the race course, and about the advice I gave or the things I said as a new Coach. I also nervous laugh in emotional moments, like weddings and funerals (which is not funny at all, but is true). I laughed with my best friend when we tried to play a clarinet duet in front of 100 people in 7th grade. (Which was not funny at the time, but sure is now)
I am also able to laugh at the absurdity of some of my thoughts, even if I don’t consider them “funny.” When I identify a cruel thought or one that just doesn’t serve me in any way, I am able to think, “well that’s not true” and/or “nice try” to my brain. Laughing at those thoughts rather than hold them as truth and judge myself for them has helped cultivate more self trust, love, and forgiveness. The circumstances of life are most certainly not always “funny.” But, you are always in control of how you react.
Here are some ways that you can intentionally try to laugh more:
*Focus on not taking things so damn personally. Life is not out to get you and neither are people.
*Practice accepting who you are– loving the things you love about yourself, being honest about your flaws, and trusting that you are doing the best you can.
*Consider why and what you expose myself to through media (TV, podcasts, Facebook, iG). When in a melancholy mood, rather than “feed the best” by focusing on how sad the state of the world is by watching the news, or making yourself feel better by scrolling through who has it “worse” in life, intentionally find something funny.
*Go to comedy shows. This was one of my favorite date night activities pre-covid. Time to get back at it!
*Surround yourself with funny friends. I know that humor is a value of mine, so I seek out spending time with people who make me laugh.
*Loosen up. It is okay to laugh, even when life is hard.
Life is serious and funny. Don’t get too caught up in the grind to make time to laugh.