Self-Therapy with Sessions of Laughter
‘BAHAHAHA’ is the sound of Hillary Clinton exercising the best form of stress-relief: a laugh (whether genuine or not). While students may not suffer from the pressures of the campaign trail, emotional and physical stress can be resolved by self-induced therapy—a session of laughter. Hanging with friends during the most trying times is actually proven to create a natural “high” with a little laughter. It is evident that laughter is linked to a good attitude, and further research shows that humor in the medical field helps professionals get through their jobs, so why not students? Laughter may be the quickest and most effective way to relieve stress.
Laughter releases endorphins and antibody-producing cells to enhance the immune system and promote health. Endorphins, often referred to as the “feel-good” hormone, make laughter an exercise of its own: A one-minute laugh can increase your heart rate to the equivalent of a 10-minute rowing exercise. Some evidence also suggests that, in the long run, laughter leads to a healthier heart.
While stress promotes the breakdown of the lining of blood vessels and can lead to clogged arteries and heart attacks, people leading a more positive lifestyle (in which laughter is included, of course) decrease their risk for heart disease. These physical attributes have a bearing on intangible factors, such as mood and attitude, as it decreases stress hormones. It is for this reason that many feel a so-called “cleansed” feeling after laughing.
Being (positively) hormonal is more of a physical benefit, while laughing can be the ideal way to get comfy with fellow peers. For professors, humor may mean the difference between keeping students awake or asleep during lectures. But for your average human being, laughter is a bonding mechanism and a tension reliever—a nervous giggle may be the initial outlet for some heart-felt laughter. It is the resulting silliness that allows for real bonding; it is less probable that an individual will dislike someone who makes them laugh.
But laughing goes beyond a simple bonding activity since it’s also a coping mechanism that allows the individual to see humor in even the most embarrassing, and sometimes the scariest, of situations. The time your cell-phone went off repeatedly with an *NSYNC ring tone in class might have been embarrassing at the moment, but hours later it may simply be laughed off as another clumsy chapter in one’s college-life.
While being a stand-up comedian is not a prerequisite to leading a happier life, incorporating humor into everyday life is a coping strategy, which, at its most basic stage, can be about making fun of yourself. It is as simple as recounting a story with friends or being silly with a roommate, yet for many it can be effective as an anti-depressant in its purest form.
Otherwise, there are individuals that are paid to make you laugh and a little awkwardness from “The Office” may be all you need to take a break from homework and reload on all those endorphins. Some re-runs of Dr. Cox referring to J.D. with female names or malevolent looks from Dwight hiding a weapon in the toilet may be enough to get your heart pumping faster.
And even fake laughter can lead to the real deal, a technique that most comedy shows employ through background laughter. A courtesy giggle can make you feel good and the joker feel like he or she is actually funny. The contagious nature of laughing can even serve as a cascade for completely meaningless laughter, meaning you feel better laughing rather than finding the actual joke funny.
Laughter is an integral part of being emotionally healthy, a binding factor in relationships and a stress-reducer. It is not only a human resource that is sought after by all public speakers as a way to engage an audience, but also a relationship-builder on the most personal level. In a world where there are no boundaries to laughter and where being politically incorrect has reached a new level of popularity, humor is a trans-cultural phenomenon with healing emotional capacity, which excludes no one from sarcastic, knee-slapping, impersonations and reenactments.