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Laughter is the best medicine


Bertrand Russell once wrote, that, "Laughter is the most inexpensive and most effective wonder drug. Laughter is a universal medicine."


Medical studies have demonstrated clearly the significant psychological and physiological benefits. One 2011 Australian study showed a 20% reduction in agitation using what is known as 'humor therapy'.


The study involved 35 nursing homes in Sydney and found that there were significant therapeutic benefits of laughter generated by clowns, jokes and simple human interactions.


While laughing alone has clear mental and physical health benefits, laughing with others arguably has a greater impact. This is because it encourages group bonding, strengthens relationships, a sense of belonging and connectedness. It is this social connection that can help us lift our mood, motivate us and generate positive thoughts about ourselves and others. Other studies have demonstrated that laughter has the ability to relax muscles, protect our hearts and improve our immune system so that our bodies are able to tackle stress. In fact, laughter has the ability to reduce cortisol (our body's main stress hormone) and release endorphins (the chemicals produced by the body to relieve stress and pain). Laughter yoga is becoming increasingly popular among those that recognise the health benefits of laughing. Individuals intentionally and voluntarily laugh without stimulus and then this laughter can quickly turn into real and contagious laughter among the group.


The eye contact and shared experience is said to be uplifting. Some people that attend such classes report a real sense of well- being, increased compassion and gratitude. Others have reported benefits in relation to a drop in blood pressure. All good news then. Laughter has no negative side effects and is free.


It would seem that laughter is something that you can self- medicate without any danger of overdose!


STRATEGIES

You need to write yourself a prescription to allow yourself greater opportunities to bring laughter into your life. We each find different things funny: jokes, TV shows, comedians, pets, etc. I cannot tell you what you will find funny and result in laughter. For me, watching episodes of The Big Bang Theory The Office (US and UK versions), Friends, Blackadder, Extras, Glee, Father Ted, Cheers and The Inbetweeners all work for me, even if I have seen them before. You might prefer You've Been Framed - we often watch this together as a family. It is simple, short and fast, which can, if you like this sort of thing, result in multiple opportunities to laugh out loud together.


If you are looking for a different starting point, then smiling would be a first step. Smile at yourself in the mirror; smile at the postman, smile at the barista that makes your coffee.


The sense of motivation and zest for life will reveal itself.


You just have to begin with the intention to be open to joy.


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