Stress can creep up on us in different ways. Students pursuing graduate degrees in health sciences especially have to deal with a lot of stress balancing rigorous classes, work and their personal lives. While stress is a normal part of life, we want to mitigate it where we can so that we keep a healthy mindset.
Laughter is a natural medicine that can improve your mood, strengthen your immune system and even combat stress. From the stress of finals to anxiety from work, we all could use a little more laughter in our lives. But is laughing good for you? Below are research-backed ways laughter can help relieve stress, plus an infographic with ten creative ways to add more laughter into your life.
Scientifically Proven Ways Laughter Can Relieve Stress
The real health benefits of genuine laughter cited by researchers are plenty. From boosting your immune system to increasing endorphins to your brain, below are scientifically proven ways a giggle can help you combat stress and increase your physical and mental health.
Physical health benefits
- Stimulates your organs: When you laugh, you take in more oxygen-rich air. This stimulates your lungs, heart and muscles.
- Relaxes your muscles: When you get stressed, your body tenses up and can cause you to feel stuck. A good laugh can relieve physical tension in the body and relax the muscles for up to 45 minutes.
- Improves cardiac health: Laughing increases your heart rate and the amount of oxygen in your blood. This can improve vascular function and decrease the risk of a heart attack.
- Boosts immune system: When you’re stressed, negative thoughts can turn into chemical reactions that decrease your immunity to sickness. When you laugh, you adopt a positive mindset that can release infection-fighting antibodies and neuropeptides that help fight stress.
- Lowers blood pressure: Laughter releases endorphins that counteract the negative effects of stress hormones—lowering your blood pressure as a result.
- Helps with weight loss: A common side effect of chronic stress is weight gain. Laughing not only reduces the stress hormones that cause weight gain, but it also burns calories.
Mental health benefits
- Provides distraction: When you laugh, you aren’t thinking about that assignment that is overdue or the big final you have coming up next week. Laughter provides your brain with a break from the worrying thoughts that cause stress.
- Improves your mood: Nothing squashes a bad mood quite like a good laugh. Laughing produces a general sense of well-being and can diffuse the anger and depression you were once feeling.
- Reduces stress hormones: Cortisol is our primary stress hormone that circulates throughout the body when you’re feeling stressed. Genuine laughter can decrease cortisol levels by increasing your intake of oxygen and stimulating circulation throughout the body.
- Increases endorphins: Endorphins are those “feel-good” chemicals produced by your brain that help boost happiness levels. Laughing increases the number of endorphins released in your body, fighting off stress and promoting a positive mood.
- Strengthens relationships: A shared laugh with friends, family or a coworker can help you feel more connected to that person and form a strong and lasting bond. Humor is also a powerful way to heal past disagreements or resentments.
10 Ways to Add More Laughter to Your Life
With all the seriousness that school and work bring, we tend to forget how important it is to make time for laughter. From hosting a game night to trying out a new hobby like laughter yoga, below are ten ways to promote laughter and positive emotions in your life.
- Follow a funny meme account: There’s a reason funny memes go viral. They make people laugh! Follow some funny meme accounts to put a smile on your face every time you hop on social media.
- Create a Pinterest board: Start a Pinterest board full of things that make you laugh, like quotes or hilarious pictures. Next time you find something on the internet that makes you smile, pin it to your board so you can look at it next time you’re feeling stressed.
- Spend time with pets: Pets, such as dogs and cats, are a source of laughter and joy for many people. If you don’t have a pet, consider asking a friend to pet-sit theirs or volunteer at an animal shelter in your free time.
- Listen to a funny podcast: On your way to work or school, listen to a funny podcast to start your day off with a laugh.
- Try laughter yoga: Laughter yoga is a new take on yoga that encourages prolonged voluntary laughter. Try out a class by yourself or take it with a friend next time you’re feeling stressed.
- Laugh at yourself: Learning to laugh at yourself is one of the best ways you can add more laughter into your life. Next time you do something that would otherwise upset you, try to find the positive in the situation.
- Alter your environment: Your environment can play a huge part in your mood. Reshape your work or study area to include things that make you smile, like a picture with friends from a funny night out, or a photo of your dog in a hilarious costume.
- Host a game night: Nothing beats a shared laugh. Invite some friends over for a game night and play party-style games like Charades or Apples to Apples.
- Watch YouTube videos: Need a quick laugh? Head to YouTube. Search anything from jumping cats to funny clips from your favorite show for a fast and easy pick-me-up.
- Spend time with playful people: We tend to be influenced by the people we hang around. Make an effort to hang out more with the funniest friend in your circle. Ask them to get coffee or lunch and talk about the silly things that happened in your day.
Whether you’re stressed about finals or your current workload, making an effort to engage in some of the above activities and laugh a little can help mitigate any excess stress. Participating in some of these activities doesn’t take long. If you only have five minutes, watch a funny YouTube video. If you have a free night this week, consider having friends over for a game night.
Whichever way you choose to add more laughter into your life, maintaining a healthy mindset is important for grad students. Take a look at our infographic below for more tips on how to relieve stress with a little bit of laughter.
Mayo Clinic. “Stress relief from laughter? It’s no joke.” July 29, 2021. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456. Accessed: January 26, 2022
Robinson, Lawrence, Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. “Laughter is the Best Medicine.” HelpGuide. Last updated July 2021. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/laughter-is-the-best-medicine.htm. Accessed: January 26, 2022