An unexpected remedy to improve your mental and physical health: Humour

There are plenty of reasons for gloom right now: the pandemic rages on with many governments worldwide reintroducing harsher measures to combat it, climate change continues to be a threat and the number of armed conflicts seems to be rising. Amidst these troubling times, it is important to find ways to look after our mental and physical wellbeing. Working out, eating healthily are some of the ‘classic’ methods for self-care but recent research shows that humour is also an effective remedy against stress.

How keeping a sense of humour reduces stress

Prolonged stress affects the cardiovascular system by increasing blood pressure, one of the main risk factors for heart attacks. According to this article in the New York Times, laughter releases a chemical called nitric oxide that relaxes blood vessels, reduces blood pressure and decreases clotting. This study explains that mirthful laughter, a type of laughter that engages your muscles – a ‘belly laughter’- is beneficial for the cardiovascular system. Regular laughter is also associated with longer living and with better short-term memory in adults, according to the same New York Times article. While the long-term physical benefits of laughter are not yet known, keeping a sense of humour is deeply beneficial for people’s mental health.

How humour can help improve mental health

Not only does laughter help lower stress, which has negative effects on mental as well as physical health, it also increases resilience. Staying resilient during challenging times is a crucial ability that everyone should master. It is a skill that is useful on a personal level but also in business. “Humour keeps negative emotions in check and gives us a different perspective, allowing us to see some of the bad things that happen to us as a challenge rather than a threat,” says Dr Bonnano, one of the specialists interviewed in the New York Times article.

Make humour a part of your day: gather your loved ones and have a laugh while watching a comedy or remembering a funny story! It will relax you and make you healthier.