Thursday, August 22, 2013

Comic Relief: Why a Little Humor Can Go a Long Way in Keeping You Upbeat

You've had a bad day. Maybe you got a parking ticket, or had an argument with a co-worker. Maybe you woke up to find that your roommate ate the last of your favorite cereal. Sometimes it's the little things that can throw your mood - and your whole day - off balance. While it can be easy to get hung up on the little things, it's never healthy in the long run. Choosing to pair a positive outlook with a side order of humor will help you navigate these situations with ease. In fact, there are three interesting reasons why a sense of humor can change your mood when the going gets tough.

Endorphins - The Natural Painkiller

Having a good chuckle has benefits that go far beyond that moment in time. The simple act of laughing or smiling increases endorphin and dopamine levels in the brain. In turn, this elevates your mood and leaves you feeling better. In a study conducted by an evolutionary psychologist at Oxford, Robin Dunbar, it was found that participants had an increased pain threshold when they were laughing versus when they were not. This is because the brain produces endorphins, which act as a natural painkiller. It's amazing to think that having a sense of humor and laughing really could be the best medicine!

Minimizing Stress Levels

Stress can have terrible effects on the body, including hypertension, high blood pressure and weight gain, that can deteriorate our quality of life and have serious implications for our future well being. The pace of modern life, demands at work and other commitments can lead to living a very stressful life. But keeping your stress level in check might be easier than you think. Research from the Mayo Clinic has shown that laughing stimulates circulation, which can aid in muscle relaxation. When muscles are able to relax, stress levels in the body are able to decrease. "After you laugh, you go into a relaxed state," says John Morreall, president of HUMORWORKS Seminars. "Your blood pressure and heart rate drop below normal, so you feel profoundly relaxed." If you can't find the humor in your situation, try reading funny quotes or watching a comedy.

Sparking Creativity to Increase Self-Esteem

Being creative is one of those small acts that can boost your self-esteem and your ego. According to Dr. William Fry M.D. - a humor guru from Stanford University - humor and creativity work in similar ways. "They both involve bringing together two items which do not have an obvious connection, and creating a relationship," says Dr. Fry. In exercising a sense of humor you will naturally exercise your creative muscles. Maybe Charlie Chaplin did have it right when he said, "A day without laughter is a day wasted." The benefits of humor go far beyond improving your mood. They may even improve your quality of life. Next time you find yourself in a stressful situation, remember these three ways that humor can turn it around and you'll be smiling in no time.

Photo by Anokha

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