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How laughter can help improve mental health

Sunday, Jul. 25, 2021
 
an image of two young women laughing

They say laughter is the best medicine, but where do you get it? At the Ha-spital... 

A laugh may seem like something small, but it can improve your mental health in a big way. While we all experience mental health differently, laugher has the potential to be the cheapest and easiest mood booster available.  

Below you will find some ways that laughter has been shown to improve mental health: 

Boosts mood 

Our brain releases chemicals called neurotransmitters, two of which are dopamine and serotonin. Our bodies naturally produce these chemicals when we laugh, and therefore can improve our mood – that's pretty dope-amine!  

Lowers anxiety 

Integrating opportunities for laughter throughout your day can have long-term effects on reducing your anxiety and improving your wellbeing! Individuals who participated in laughter therapy for 6-8 weeks reported reduced levels of overall anxiety. By laughing more, you can see positive long-term effects.

Tension reduction 

The world can be a stressful place, and sometimes it feels as though we are always looking for ways to relax. Laughter is a free and easy way to do just that. Laughing after a stressful day at work can allow us to let that tension go and relax for the evening. Laughter can also improve sleep quality which is so vital to our mental health. Some studies suggest that putting sugar under your pillow before you go to sleep can increase your likelihood of sweet dreams. 

Improved connection 

Having strong relationships and the feeling of connectedness is integral to our overall wellbeing. The connection we have with others is strengthened through laughter and is a positive force in many relationships. Since relationships are so important to our mental health improving connections by laughing with the ones you love can reap many benefits.  

How can you bring more laughter into your life? 

We all deal with stressful situations in our lives, whether it is work, school, a pandemic... all of it is impactful. It can be hard to find humour in life and opportunities to laugh. Here are some ways to fit a chuckle into your busy schedule: 

1. Do what you love – Add more fun activities to your day! What is something that makes you smile? What were you doing the last time you laughed so hard you couldn’t breathe? Incorporate these activities into your life.

2. Find humour - In difficult situations it can be hard to find a moment to laugh, but shifting perspective can bring humour into your life. Sometimes, the best way to move forward from a difficult situation is to laugh at yourself!  

3. Smile - Smiling can release many similar emotions like laughter, and like laughter, it is contagious. Smile at a coworker or someone you pass on the street to bring a bit more joy to yourself and those around you. A smile a day can keep the doctor away!  

4. Find people who make you laugh – Finding a friend, family member or coworker that has the same sense of humour as you can bring more laughter into your life. Find ways to spend more time with these people – get coffee with one of your best-TEAs! Online forums or websites might also be full of others who enjoy similar jokes. Interact with these people and find ways to laugh with them.   

As you find more ways to include laughter in your life, you will start to realize that there are many easy and creative pathways to finding joy. Continue on this journey to allowing yourself to laugh at the small things to make a big difference in your wellbeing.  

Sorry for all the medical puns, they aren’t always funny, especially if you have an irony deficiency.  

To learn about how occupational therapy can help you integrate these suggestions into your life, check out our services page.

This blog was written by Marie-Claire Lister, an Occupational Therapy student at Queen's University. 

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