The phrase ‘laughter is the best medicine’ is an easy one to dismiss, but there is actually lots of scientific evidence to support the incredibly positive impact laughter can have on our mental health. Most people would probably be surprised to learn that many of our conversations on HOPELINEUK involve the caller laughing at some point, even after they may have been crying at the beginning of the call. When we laugh we can feel a reduction of stress and anxiety. Usually it is followed by a clearer mind and people feeling much more capable of working through their problems.
Studies have shown that joyful laughter produces almost exactly the same brain wave frequency that meditation does, which of course is a highly recommended activity to improve your mental health. Laughter is not just a result of happiness for a moment, the physical act itself can actually produce a more positive emotional state. When we laugh it causes all sorts of positive reactions within our bodies. Our cortisol levels drop, reducing stress. Endorphins are also released and these increase energy, improve mood and ease anxiety.
Another benefit of laughing is that it can also be an excellent way of releasing those negative emotions that have been held on to for a long time. The extent of this is evidenced by laughter therapy being successful in supporting people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Another common theme we hear a lot is people feeling isolated and not having a network of positive people around them to provide support. It is often difficult to form bonds with people, especially when you are in a new environment, whether that be starting at college, university or a job for example. One well established way of developing friendships is to share laughter with them. When a group of people laugh together, in tandem, it is a great leveller. Differences in social hierarchy, age, beliefs, wealth and how long you have known someone – these are all rendered irrelevant when you are howling with laughter. As difficult as it can be to form new relationships, sharing funny moments with people is a great way to help you develop friendships. We often advise people to surround themselves with figures who are beneficial to their mental health. Indeed, this often includes people who make us laugh.
Of course, we’re think about this because today (15.03.2019) is Comic Relief. At PAPYRUS we hear from many people who show an incredible amount of strength, often in a time of great difficulty, to do some fundraising for charity. This can have a therapeutic effect on an individual by giving them a sense of pride, purpose, perspective and achievement. Whilst we always acknowledge that looking after yourself is vitally important – doing something that is significant for others can be an excellent form of self-care too.
Depending on your condition and circumstances, laughter might not be the best medicine, but it is definitely an excellent one that everyone should try. It’s free and, with a little knowledge of what makes you giggle, readily available.
While we are on the subject of comedy – last month saw the inaugural PAPYRUS Comedy Gala, in loving memory of Trixie Hart. Luisa Omielan, James Acaster, Alan Carr and many other comedians took to the stage at the Clapham Grand to help raise money for suicide prevention. It was a memorable and inspiring night. Here are some of our favourite photos from the night (click to see a full-size version).