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Is laughter really the best medicine?

There's some truth to the saying – laughter really is good for you.

Laughing feels good, and it benefits our wellbeing in more ways than one.

This is true whether you’re at a comedy festival, hanging out with friends, or practising ‘laughter therapy’. Did you know that the body is unable to pinpoint the difference between fake and genuine laughter? That means you can actually trick your body into experiencing the benefits of laughter, no matter how you’re feeling.

Most laughing therapists will begin their sessions with participants placing one hand on their stomach while letting out a gradual “huh huh huh”. This is repeated a second time with more vigour – “HA HA HA” – and so on. The body is forced into a laughing posture, triggering a release of endorphins. Before long, a room full of people fake laughing becomes so ridiculous that the laughter becomes genuine.

Here are just a few possible benefits of getting your chuckle on.

“The act of laughter increases the release of endorphins and dopamine in our brain, which helps reduce cortisol, our stress hormone.”

Laughter reduces stress

Feeling stressed? There’s a cure for that. The act of laughter increases the release of endorphins and dopamine in our brain, which helps reduce cortisol, our stress hormone. To fend off unwelcome stress, add a weekly or monthly comedy night to your diary. Watch a funny movie, visit a comedy show or slow down and observe the humour in everyday life – whatever tickles your fancy.

Laughter forms bonds

There’s nothing like a good gag to break the ice. Laughter and humour are instant barrier breakers and are important components in forming and fostering relationships. A study by Alan Gray of University College found that people who had a good laugh together shared significantly more intimate information than those who didn’t. Gray suggests this is not merely because it’s a positive experience, but because laughter releases endorphins which encourage people to make more intimate disclosures to strangers.

Laughter keeps you young

There is a secret to natural anti-aging: laughter. And the best part? It’s free. A study done by Loma Linda University in California found that high stress levels in older people can cause damage to neurons in the brain, affecting memory and the ability to learn new things. For a laugh, join a laughing yoga class or workshop to get the endorphins flowing.

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