Laugh More. Worry Less.
A little while ago I read a woman’s magazine article that was headed “Laughing with friends until the Prosecco bubbles shoot out of your nostrils is one of life’s pleasures”. Not only did that headline make me smile, it made me wonder – when was the last time I had that kind of laughter? The kind of pure, raw belly laughing that makes your stomach and sides hurt. Can you remember the last time someone, or something, made you laugh that much?
Well, let me tell you – if you have to think too hard about the answer, then it was too long ago!
Experts believe that laughter not only lowers blood pressure and heart rate – ultimately decreasing the risk of a heart attack – but also suppresses the release of stress-related hormones, and stimulates production of serotonin, often referred to as our ‘happy hormone’. Serotonin acts as our mood-balancing hormone, which helps us to feel less anxious, calmer, more confident and more able to cope in life, and also helps release muscle stress or tension. No wonder that laughter with friends is one of the main things I prescribe to my clients.
But how do we see the funny side of things when we’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, anxious or depressed? Often, the last thing we feel like doing is laughing, and, more often than not, we can find ourselves withdrawing from company. But it’s really important – especially when we’re feeling down – to make a real effort to be with other people, because social interaction and social support are vital for both our physical and mental health.
In today’s busy world, it’s easy to become separated from our ‘tribe’, and not see friends or family as often as we’d like. So, it’s a good habit to catch up with friends or loved ones at least once a month – more if possible – even if it’s just a weekly phone or skype call. Telling a friend about a disastrous day and turning it into a funny story that you both laugh at can be just the medicine you need to forget all your worries! Plus, you’ll be helping your friend create more serotonin too by getting them laughing with you! ?
If catching up with old friends or family isn’t possible, then find some new friends! Join an evening class or a sport club (exercise is also a great way to release serotonin and endorphins). If you’ve got a dog, then walking it is a great way to get some fresh air, exercise, and meet other like-minded dog walkers.
And you can also find ways to laugh when you’re home alone. Make a list of your favourite feel-good movies, or TV comedy shows – and when you’re feeling stressed or miserable, watch one of them. I personally love to watch the TV series Taskmaster, where celebrities and comedians have to undertake silly tasks. It’s guaranteed to have me chuckling before the 1st advert break!
As always, please get in touch with any questions or comments.
Dr Marcelle Crinean, PhD, owner and director of Brain Reframe, is a highly qualified therapist, coach and lecturer.
In her busy practice, Marcelle successfully treats sleep and stress-related issues (including insomnia, anxiety and depression) as well as disordered eating, binge-eating and undereating. She regularly holds workshops and webinars, and trains business executives across the UK and Europe in the art of sleep and stress management.