Global Belly Laugh Day: The Benefits of Laughter
Did you know that January 24th is Global Belly Laugh Day? No joke! Did you know that laughing is beneficial to your health? Seriously! How would you like a stronger immune system, more energy and less pain? How about bolstering your positive outlook and enhancing your connections with people? These are just a handful of laughter's many benefits. Let’s honor this week’s high-spirited holiday by celebrating the chuckle!
You can do it.
Humans are hardwired for humor. Laughter predates language, and infants giggle from birth. Not everyone can be an Olympic hurdler, nor can everyone be a stand-up comedian. But everybody can (and should) laugh.
Laughter does the body good.
If you’re having trouble sticking with your 2013 exercise routine, here’s some happy news: Maciej Buchowski, a researcher from Vanderbilt University, found that people burn an average of 50 calories when they laugh for 10-15 minutes. But don’t substitute laughter for working out: bring your sense of humor to the gym. In addition to the calories burned during that 15-minute bout of belly-aching laughter, you’ll also increase your pain tolerance by 10%. That’s not all: A hearty laugh relieves physical tension and can provide muscle relaxation for up to 45 minutes. Laughter also decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells, improving resistance to disease.
Laughter sparks the spirit.
We all know that laughter feels good. That’s because while you’re laughing, anxiety and anger fade away. Laughter increases creativity, optimism and energy. It elevates mood, self-esteem and resilience. Laughter can provide hope and courage during difficult times. It’s also known to be contagious, and it has many social benefits, including: stronger bonds between family and friends and enhanced teamwork.
Laughter is prescribed by doctors.
Indian physician Madan Kataria pioneered Laughter Yoga, a practice that combines yogic breathing with unconditional laughter. Dr. Clifford C. Kuhn (aka the Laugh Doctor) uses the healing power of humor in his patented HA HA HA Prescription and the Ten Commandments of Fun. Dr. Paul McGhee, president of The Laughter Remedy, pioneered research for humor in the healthcare setting. “Mirthologist” Steven M. Sultanoff, Ph.D incorporates humor in his psychology practice. Nurse Patty Wooten has made a living for more than 20 years studying and sharing how humor and laughter provide therapeutic benefits.
Maybe you should consult a laughter expert?
If Ph.Ds and MDs aren't enough, take a cue from your kids. Children laugh easily and solve their problems through play. Psychology professor Robert Provine found that babies laugh 300 times a day compared to adults who laugh only 20 times. The stresses and responsibilities of adulthood can take a toll on laughter, but only if you let them. Learn to incorporate laughter in your life. Start by asking the experts.
Create opportunities to laugh.
Laughing is often a spontaneous reaction, but you can set up situations that increase the likelihood for laughter. Here are some suggestions.
- Watch something funny. SpongeBob is recommended viewing.
- Play with a family pet. Pets are play professionals.
- Spend time with children. The laughs will come naturally.
- Act silly, intentionally. Enjoy a laugh at your own expense.
Happy Belly Laugh Day!
Jeremy Brautman chronicles the intersection of popular culture and playful design. He contributes the Toys by Design column to Design Bureau, curates art shows with kids and muses daily about contemporary art and ephemera at Jeremyriad.com. He believes that toys are enduring tools for telling stories and is known in certain circles as "the toy maven."