The dopamine found in our brains is also known as the reward hormone as it regulates mood, attention, learning and motivation. Dopamine also triggers feelings of pleasure.
Low levels of serotonin in our brains are linked to aggression, anxiety and even depression. So, more serotonim makes us feel good. So does laughter as it is instinctive. Most laughter is not about humor, rather, about relationships between people. We laugh more in social situations than when alone. It’s not something we produce consciously. It’s contagious. A good, healthy laugh can help reduce pain. A good, long, loud laugh brings more oxygen into our lungs. Laughter is a sound with no language, so is effective internationally.
While my son was ill, a laughter therapist who I’d invited to give a talk to our support group told us that laughter keeps our immune systems humming by decreasing stress hormones. He stressed that it boosts infection-fighting anti-bodies by keeping our blood vessels pumping and protects our hearts too. Then my gym instructor told us that laughter triggers a rush of those all-important endorphins that we all love to feel after a good workout. When the well-known journalist, Norman Cousins was diagnosed with a painful spinal condition, he discovered that a regular diet of television comedies and candid camera episodes actually helped lessen his pain. I quote: ‘I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and gave me at least two hours of well-needed, pain-free sleep.’ The members of the support group drew up a list of what we should do to help brighten our days and here are a few suggestions.
- Smile because it is the beginning of laughter and like laughter, it is contagious.
- List your blessings. The simple act of considering the good things in my life helped distance me from the negative thoughts that acted as barriers to humor, laughter and consequently to feeling good.
- When I hear someone laugh, I move toward that person. Humor can be a shared joke among a small group of friends, but more often than not, everyone is happy to share something funny. Why? Because it gives them an opportunity to laugh all over again.
- I love spending time with fun people who laugh and smile easily both at themselves, and at life’s absurdities. These are people who find humor in everyday events. Their playful points of view are often contagious.
- I try to bring humor into ordinary conversations simply by asking; ‘What is the funniest thing that happened to you today/this week or even this month?’ Try it sometime.