LOL: The benefits of having a good giggle
We all know it feels good to laugh – but laughter might also be good for your wellbeing.
Wander through a children’s playground and there’s a good chance you’ll hear an orchestra of laughter – but the same is not always said of adult areas. “Adults generally laugh a lot less than children,” says Ros Ben-Moshe, director of Laughlife Wellbeing Programs and adjunct lecturer in the La Trobe University School of Public Health.
She blames societal pressures, arguing many adults may have been conditioned not to laugh as much due to environments like workplaces. For example, “If it looks like we’re enjoying ourselves too much, there may be an assumption that people are not taking their work seriously,” Ros explains.
Ros wants to lead a laughter revolution, spreading the word about the benefits of having a regular LOL. Here’s why she’s such a fan of a chuckle.
It can be a stress buster
Laughter might be the last thing you feel like doing when you’re strung out, but Ros says it can actually be one of the best ways to release tension.
“Laughter has been associated with psychological, physical and social benefits,” she explains. “It is thought that laughter may play a role in increasing a sense of wellbeing and it may also help people to feel less stressed.
“It also helps induce the relaxation response and endorphins, those feel good hormones that are also released during exercise.”
It may have physical benefits
“Some of my research shows that as you are laughing, you are taking in fresh air and laughing out the stale air,” Ros explains. “It appears to increase oxygenation with effects comparable to aerobic activity like running or jogging. Some research has shown it also alleviates pain.”
It helps keeps you mindful
We’re increasingly hearing how focusing on the present moment – not the past or future – can be a great way to neutralise stress.
Ros says laughter is a great tool for doing just that. “New research suggests the effect of laughter is very similar to meditation because when you are laughing you are in the present moment,” she points out.
How to laugh more
Now it’s one thing to know we ought to laugh more, but it’s another to actually know how to do it.
While humour is an obviously good starting point, if natural laughter isn’t happening for you, Ros says it can be good to simply start with the physical act of laughing. Laughter yoga can be a good way get into the practice.
“You do simulated laughs, then clapping at the same time as chanting ho-ho-hahaha, then some deep breaths to prepare yourself for the next laugh,” Ros explains.
She’s been teaching laughter yoga for years and says her students always tell her they feel lighter, happier and more energised after a session.
“When we have health issues or are feeling down, it can be really difficult to laugh, which is why laughter yoga is such a great concept as you don’t specifically need a reason to laugh – you just laugh,” Ros explains.
Embrace your inner child
If laughter yoga is not for you, there are lots of other ways to laugh more. Why not hang out with your kids, catch up with a group of friends or watch a comedy show or funny movie? “Even try laughing out loud if you are watching a TV comedy by yourself – often we don’t do that,” Ros says.
Ros says, “Just create as many opportuities as possible in your daily life. Become more conscious and aware of bringing the laughter out – the more you do it the better, because over time you will start to laugh more.”