Laughter is the Best Medicine for Your Mental Health

Carolyn Barber of Portsmouth’s Good Mental Health Cooperative, and local researcher and social entrepreneur, shares advice and resources on how to manage your mental health in lockdown. The Coop is running a mental wealth programme through July and August, and in this post, Carolyn explores the benefits of laughter for your mental health.

‘What Soap is to the Body, Laughter is to the Soul’, Yiddish Proverb.

Children laugh spontaneously and naturally – it’s not something they have to learn. They say children laugh 200-400 times a day, while adults laugh an average of 15 times. Laughter, along with playfulness, gets lost as we grow up and take on responsibilities and obligations.

Being playful is just as important for adults as it is for children. Creative activities like singing, dancing, writing, art, gardening, running and jumping – these are all ways we can play and feel delight and joy, if we allow ourselves. Of course during lockdown, many of these organised creative activities stopped overnight, but for those of us still able to go out for daily exercise there was often new delights to be found connecting with nature. Back to laughter or playfulness though – how much has the lack of contact with others affected this over the past few months?

Our bodies actually change when we laugh. We stretch muscles throughout our face and body, our pulse and blood pressure go up, and we breathe faster, sending more oxygen to our tissues. This is very similar to the benefits of exercise. One pioneer in laughter research, William Fry, claimed it took ten minutes on a rowing machine for his heart rate to reach the level it would after just one minute of hearty laughter.

Laughter strengthens the immune system, reduces stress hormones in the body, improves circulation, releases tension, promotes relaxation and deeper sleep, increases levels of positivity, creativity and energy, provides an antidote to anxiety and worry, re-motivates and lifts our spirits. Amazingly if you practice pretend laughing, apparently it has the same effect on our wellbeing as the real deal, and the more you practise the more you’re likely to laugh spontaneously and naturally – just like children.

We recognise that this has been an incredibly challenging time, coping with sudden and dramatic changes in our lives, intense feelings, anxiety about the future, loss of contact with loved ones, experience of illness and bereavement.

At the Good Mental Health Cooperative, we believe that connecting with others, and informal arts and wellbeing learning activities, are really important ways to take care of our mental health, and build the emotional resilience we need to get though these difficult times.

The programme takes place mainly through July and August, and includes the following:

  • Weekly livestreamed ChitChat Cafe meetings on Facebook
  • Twice weekly 30 minute live mindfulness sessions
  • Journal writing course – 5 weekly sessions
  • Live arts and wellbeing workshops – 5 weekly sessions
  • Live Embodiment Through Movement workshops – 5 weekly sessions
  • Discover Yourself – self development course – 7 weekly sessions
  • Working Through Worry – 7 weekly sessions
  • Two Mental Wealth Trialogue live discussion events

Full details about the programme and registering your interest are available here.

Additional resources

Each week we share a range of strategies and resources to help you build mental and emotional resilience during the Covid19 crisis. This is just as important as our physical strength if we were planning to run a marathon! And just like our physical health, taking care of our mental health is about establishing good habits as part of our regular routine.

We’ve been hard at work updating the Resources section of the Good Mental Health Coop website – these are resources you can use to build your mental and emotional resilience during these testing times. The Resources are divided under 4 themes – Meet, Relax, Learn, Create – please take some time to browse and check them out.

You can also find information about local support and services available if you’re feeling emotionally or psychologically distressed. Click here for Resources for Resilience.

This article was originally published as a newsletter. Check out the Good Mental Health Coop website, where you can sign up to receive Carolyn’s weekly mental health updates by email, and find out more about the amazing work the Coop do. You can also follow the Coop on Twitter and Facebook, and you can read all of Carolyn’s articles for S&C here.

Image by Randhir Kumar from Pixabay.

S&C is managed and operated by a small team who work on a voluntary and freelance basis to run our website, social media and engage with local residents and communities. Like all independent news providers in the UK, we’ve been hit hard by the pandemic. If you want to find out more about the challenges facing local independent news: visit the #SaveIndependentNews campaign website, get involved with S&C, donate, and help us spread the word on Facebook and Twitter. And if you want to know more about us, click here.