It’s been a stressful and busy couple of weeks, and last week I felt like it was starting to take it’s toll. I had bags under my eyes, my skin was more blemished than usual and I was exhausted. But on Wednesday night I was invited out with a couple of friends for a Chinese in Soho and a Snog (frozen yoghurt chain in London – amazing) in Leicester Square.
I seriously thought about staying in and getting an early night, spending the evening on my own and having a quiet word with myself to get to feeling a bit better. But I opted to go out, and I’m so glad I did. It was just a regular evening with friends, but I laughed so much. Laughed, and laughed and laughed. My sides hurt, my cheeks hurt, the strange spot behind my ears that hurts when I laugh too much hurt. I was such a ridiculous evening, with good food, good company, and all with no alcohol.
Then on Thursday morning, I saw myself in the mirror. My skin looked clearer, the bags under my eyes had lifted, and my eyes looked brighter, and I got to thinking about the benefits of laughter.
Laughter is an antidote to everything. Scientific studies have proven that laughing can relaxe the muscles in your body for up to 45 minutes, relieving physical tension and stress, while it’s also good for your heart, boosts your immune system, and releases endorphins (the body’s feel good hormones – see Legally Blonde).
In September, the University of Oxford revealed that the endorphins released by laughter can act as a natural painkiller, proving that laughter is, if not the best medicine, it’s pretty much as good as pain-killing drugs.
The study also revealed that it’s the sort of laughter that determines how beneficial the good feeling is to your health. A gentle giggle or a bit of a titter won’t do much, but a good belly laugh or an uncontrollable fit of laughter will release endorphins, create mild euphoria and have a positive physiological effect on your wellbeing.
There’s even a rising trend of Laughing Yoga. Check out the Laughing Guru, who says a good chuckle is good for both the heart and mind, and will almost certainly have you in a gentle fit of the giggles. There are even laughter yoga classes and retreats cropping up all over the country.
Laughteryoga.co.uk describes the trend as “a combination of Laughter Exercises with Yogic Breathing” and explains that it increases the amount of oxygen in the body whilst being playful resulting in a feeling more healthy, energised and alive. They add “this actually changes the physiology of your body so that you start to feel happier”.
There’s a chance that this is a load of rubbish, no doubt scientists have disproved the theory created by an old wives tale. Laughter isn’t going to cure those who are seriously ill, it’s not going to treat depression, it’s not going to change the world, but it’s a start.
We live in a society where there is so much pressure and stress, it’s easy to forget that sometimes, taking a step back, and having a good old giggle with friends, family or a loved one, can be more beneficial than getting into bed and shutting the world out, no matter how much you might feel like that’s the best option.
So. However you’re feeling today, take a step back from life. Throw on that silly movie that always has you laughing. Pick up that novel that makes you laugh so hard you almost wee, or watch a couple of these YouTube clips, and chortle, chuckle, giggle, guffaw and howl your way to better emotional and physical health.