I’ve written posts before about using alternative therapies to overcome sleep issues and stress, but there’s something else that can be really helpful in overcoming illness and stressful situations… and it’s not something you would normally think of as an “alternative therapy.” Nevertheless, this is a practice that has been scientifically proven to help in all manner of illnesses, and is an excellent reliever of stress. And best of all, it’s entirely free!
What is this amazing, free and incredibly effective therapy, I hear you ask…
I know it sounds far-fetched that laughter should be able to cure anything at all… but stop and think for a minute: if you’re having a bad day, or feeling run down and rubbish, what makes you feel better more quickly than a good, old fashioned belly laugh?
At this time of year, it can be hard to maintain positivity. It’s cold and dark outside, Christmas is over and done with, and Spring seems a million miles away. Everyone has a cold, or a bug, or some sort of minor ailment. We suffer with a lack of sunlight; some even suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder. More people suffer bouts of depression at this time of year, and other illnesses read their heads when we’re feeling miserable and tired.
Laughter reduces our sympathetic nervous system activity, and engages our parasympathetic nervous system instead. This means it helps to assuage emotional stress, as well as releasing tension and negative energy. Alexander Lowen, a US physician and psychotherapist, said that uncontrolled laughter can create a convulsive reaction which releases muscular tension in the body.
Aside from relieving stress and tension, laughter can also create positive immune and cardiovascular system effects. In fact, tests have shown that vigorous laughter can have the same sort of effects as exercise, with increased heart rate and breathing, and a corresponding decrease in blood pressure afterwards. That’s not to say you can replace your weekly gym class with a comedy dvd, but laughter can be good for you!
Laughter is incredibly good for you, and unlike some things that are “good for you,” requires minimum effort and is actually enjoyable.
When you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, it can be hard to see the humour in anything, even if it’s hilarious. The struggles of day to day life start to weigh down on us, and we forget how to laugh. Instead, we will watch something “funny” on a screen and remark, “oh, that’s funny” rather than actually laughing at it. Stick with it, though. Treat yourself to a live comedy show, or find some funny videos on YouTube. Give yourself permission to laugh. Ask your friends for the most ridiculous jokes they can come up with, share funny stories. If all else fails, find some old Marx Brothers movies!
This is one of those things that is definitely worth a try. A good belly laugh, at the very worst, will give you sore stomach muscles. But it could also make you feel happier, and be good for your physical health too!