Few things are more life affirming than laughing so hard your belly aches and tears stream down your face. If what makes you laugh also makes you pee your pants or spit out your drink mid-sip, even better! A fit of the giggles or uncontrollable, uproarious laughter just feels so good. So why don’t we do more of it? Children laugh with abandon about 300 times a day but for adults, it’s closer to just 15 times. Even then, it’s more likely to be a guarded chuckle than a full-throated guffaw.
Easy as child’s play
Admittedly, little kids don’t have a whole lot else to do but be amused by the world and all its magical mystery: no jobs, no bills, no tricky relationships to navigate, few responsibilities or cares. As we grow into our more sophisticated selves, stuff gets serious and sometimes it just ain’t that funny. As a result, we tend to lose some of our capacity for spontaneous mirth.
It turns out though, that the ability and willingness to see the lighter side of life comes with a bunch of benefits you might have never considered. Laughter not only does your soul a power of good, it’s also a wonderful tonic for all-round health and wellbeing.
Tell us what’s funny then
While one person might find great hilarity in say, a Funniest Home Videos clip of a poor chap coming a cropper off a bike or the bride slipping on the dance floor, someone else might find that disturbing. There’s no one-size-fitsall prescription for funny. Humour is subjective and often completely circumstantial, dependent on mood, location, company, who’s telling the joke and how much caffeine or alcohol has been consumed!
What makes you howl with laughter one day barely raises a smirk the next. As the best comedians know, timing is everything. In the right place at the right time, just a look from the right person might be enough to make you fall about laughing. A sitcom with a canned laughter soundtrack on the other hand may never elicit so much as a giggle. And would the same joke told by Jimeóin and, say, Tony Abbott be just as funny? We’re guessing not! The trick is to tap into what tickles your particular funny bone. Do you like gentle humour, plain old goofiness, slapstick, political satire or edgy stand-up comedy? Is there a particular comedian who always makes you laugh? Are there certain friends or family members you always have a rollicking good time with? At all costs, seek them out!
The power of laughter
Stress, anger, tension, sadness – laughter has the power to diffuse them all. Shared laughter bonds people together and is commonly cited as the number one reason people are attracted to their partners and friends. It transcends looks and money, and may explain that age-old question ‘is she really going out with him?’ Why, actually, yes, she is. Probably because he makes her laugh like nobody’s business!
Try this now
No matter what your current mood is, when you get a sec, hop onto YouTube and search ‘funniest stand-up comedy routines’. Click on a random video or search for a piece by a comedian you like until you find one that really makes you laugh. Notice how your whole body reacts. As the muscles in your face and mouth relax, you should feel an immediate release of tension. Notice also what happens to your diaphragm, respiratory, abdominal, back and leg muscles; it’s like a mini workout going on!
How to chuckle more
■ Prescribe yourself a few minutes each day of something that makes you laugh out loud, whether it’s watching a giggle-inducing online cat video or reading your favourite funny blogger.
■ Rent funny movies. We love Weekend at Bernie’s and This Is Spinal Tap. If that fails, try the TV sitcom Fawlty Towers.
■ Seek out something funny especially when you are feeling frustrated, upset, sad or mad. Laughter sets off psychological and physiological changes that can help turn a dynamic from negative to positive.
■ Smile more. Fake it if you have to. A smile is the start of a laugh. It has transformation powers! Share your smiles. Smile at yourself in the mirror.
■ Declare yourself a down-in-thedumps- free zone and surround yourself with positive, happy people.
■ Become a comedy-club junkie. Check out local guides for gigs near you.
■ Gravitate towards laughter when you hear it – people are usually very happy to share what’s so funny.
■ Look for the humour in situations, even when they’re less than ideal.
The best medicine
Laughter really is the best tonic. Taken regularly, it can:
■ Help fight disease, illness and infection by inhibiting the release of certain stress hormones that suppress immunity.
■ Help lower blood pressure.
■ Help reduce pain and increase feelings of wellbeing by triggering the release of endorphins, also known as feel-good hormones.
■ Improve circulation and increase blood flow and oxygen throughout your body.
■ Help regulate blood sugar levels.
■ Help you get a better night’s sleep (and all the many benefits that entails).
■ Increase resilience in times of stress.
■ Improve relationships by building trust and camaraderie in professional and personal settings.