Some researchers believe that the whole reason laughter evolved was just to make us humans feel better. Think about it: it feels good, is more contagious than yawning and creates a strong social bond. In this way, it enhanced connectedness in our early societies – and it still does.
Laughter feels good because when we laugh, feel-good neuro-transmitters – dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins are released into the brain, which makes us feel calmer, happier and more energised.
Perhaps it is not surprising then that so many of us Brits found laughter helped us through the first lockdown. But what made us laugh?
- 53% of us laughed at funny videos
- 38% of us laughed on virtual calls with family and friends
- 22% of us laughed while listening to the radio
- 16% of us laughed at funny books
Try our five tips to get more laughter into your life:
1. Stock up on things that make you laugh. In the same way you might stock up on healthy food to try and avoid eating junk food, surround yourself with things that make you laugh to avoid succumbing to negative feelings. Have a think about the programmes, videos or books that made you laugh out loud – and grab them on a bad day; laughing will help your brain shift its focus from negative to positive.
2. Smile more. The facial feedback hypothesis states that facial movement can influence our emotions, so if you smile you feel happier. Even a simulated smile will work - in 1988, psychologists found that subjects who held a pencil in their teeth while watching cartoons found them funnier than subjects who held a pencil with their lips. Why? Because their mouths were forced into a smiling position.
3. Spend time with people that make you laugh. You know who they are. When you spend time with these people you will be left feeling happy and energised – and so will they! If you can’t see them because of social restrictions, don’t let that stop you – just be sure to keep in touch with them by phone or online.
4. Play with children. Children laugh a lot more freely than adults and isn’t it hard to resist laughing too? That’s because when we hear laughter, it stimulates a response in our brain and the muscles in our face get prepared to respond, in other words we laugh too. And what’s the best way to get children laughing? Play with them.
5. Count your blessings. The necessity of gratitude is a fundamental teaching of Islam and the first chapter of the Quran begins with expressing our gratitude for the countless blessings Allah has showered upon us. Gratitude boosts our state of mind, opens our heart, and makes us more receptive to laughter.