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Just for laughs

16 August is national Tell a Joke Day. So here goes. What’s the best thing about Switzerland? I don’t know, but the flag is a big plus.

It’s nice to share a good laugh, but did you know it can actually improve your health? It brings people together in a way that triggers healthy physical and emotional changes. Laughter also helps to strengthen your immune system, boosts mood, diminishes pain and protects you from the damaging effects of stress. Best of all, this priceless medicine is fun, free, and easy to use.

When we are children we laugh all the time but as adults life tends to be more serious and laughter less frequent. But by seeking out opportunities for humour and laughter, you can improve your emotional health, strengthen your relationships, find greater happiness and perhaps add years to your life. As Jasper Carrot (British Comedian) said, “Laughter is the best medicine. Unless you’re diabetic, then insulin comes pretty high on the list.”

So, how does it work? Well, the benefits of laughter are many. It relaxes the whole body. A good laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes. This also decreases the production of stress hormones and increases immune cells and antibodies.

Laughter not only burns calories but triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain. It also improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular issues.

Nothing diffuses anger and conflict faster than a shared laugh. Looking at the funny side can put problems into perspective and enable you to move on from confrontations without bitterness or resentment. It can also help you shift perspective and allow you to see situations in a more realistic, less troubling light. A humourous perspective creates psychological distance, which can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and so diffuse conflict.

Laughter draws you closer to others, which can have a profound effect on all aspects of your mental and emotional health. Also, a study in Norway found that people with a strong sense of humour outlived those who don’t laugh as much. The difference was particularly notable for those battling cancer.

Humour can also aid creativity. As David Ogilvy (British Businessman) said, “The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible”. So, perhaps you are brainstorming ideas and someone says something funny and everyone laughs. But what if we could change this or that, perhaps it becomes a great idea.

In truly dark times, laughter can gives you the courage and strength to find new sources of meaning and hope. Even in the most difficult of times, a laugh, or even simply a smile, can go a long way toward making you feel better.

Here are some ways to start:
• Smiling is the beginning of laughter, and like laughter, it’s contagious. Recall something pleasant or fulfilling and smile.
• Count your blessings (You could literally make a list). The simple act of considering the positive aspects of your life will distance you from negative thoughts that may block humour and laughter.
• When you hear laughter, move toward it. When you hear laughter, seek it out and ask, “What’s funny?”
• Spend time with fun, playful people and people who laugh easily, both at themselves and at life’s absurdities, and who routinely find the humour in everyday events.
• Try to bring humour into conversations by making humorous observations or telling funny stories.

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