Sometimes it takes very little to feel good, simply allowing yourself to laugh a little more often during the day. Yes, because laughter releases endorphins in the brain, calms, relaxes and makes you cope with even the most stressful periods with ease, reducing the symptoms of anxiety. This emerges from two scientific studies, the first recent, published on PLoS One by a group of scientists from Basel (Zander-Schellenberg et al, PLoS One, 2020), the second a few years ago appeared in The Journal of Neuroscience thanks to work of a Finnish team (Manninen et al, J Neurosci, 2017).
Laughing stimulates the release of endorphins
Several scientific studies have investigated the power that laughter can have on mood and brain. The study published in 2017 showed that laughing, especially when it is done in a group, with family or friends, stimulates the release of endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are chemicals that calm, relax and bring feelings of serenity and well-being. And the beauty is that, as pointed out by the authors of the study, laughter is contagious and so the release of endorphins can spread quickly in a group of people! In short, not only happiness but also the feelings of calm and relaxation are contagious, as this scientific study has shown.
Laughing and smiling help us to overcome stress
The second study started from the considerations of previous studies that had been able to demonstrate the benefits of laughter on mood and the brain. The aim of this research, however, was to go further and try to understand how the frequency with which we laugh can give us more or less tools to deal with even the most stressful periods. Not only that, the researchers also wanted to understand if the intensity of laughter could play a role. 41 university students were thus recruited, therefore people subjected to stress in everyday life. The average age was 22 years. For 2 weeks the volunteers were asked to answer the call of a beep emitted from the smartphone and access a questionnaire indicating, from the last beep, how many times they had laughed, the intensity of their laugh, if they had had to face stressful events and how did they feel, tired, exhausted, if they had headaches or other symptoms potentially related to stress. This happened 8 times a day at irregular times. What emerged was that those who had a tendency to laugh more often were able to cope with stress more calmly, presenting fewer symptoms related to stress and anxiety, such as nervous tics, headaches, finding themselves brooding or feeling agitated. An interesting fact was that the type of laugh, which can be loud or just hinted at as in the case of a smile, makes no difference on the beneficial effects, which are seen regardless of the intensity with which one laughs or smiles.
Laughing costs nothing
So, let's laugh or smile more often. It doesn't cost us anything but it has great benefits for our mental health, our serenity and also that of others!