I want to discuss laughter and how it’s related to the stress response. Can we use it as a tool to manage our stress?
We’ve already discussed a lot of stuff about how the brain and body are impacted by stress. We have learned about the activation of the stress response and how our heart rate, breathing and blood pressure become elevated. We learned about an increase in anxiety and about how our muscles become tense.
And then we learned about the relaxation response and how engaging it calms everything associated with the stress response. We’ve learned about brainwaves and how, if we can engage our alpha state, this will promote creativity whilst down-regulating the stress response.
So what about laughter? What does it do to, or with, stress?
Let me ask you a question …
Have you ever tried to get up out of a chair while you are simultaneously rolling around on the floor laughing?
While I haven’t tried it from the floor, I have tried it from the couch. And I haven’t been able to do it.
Because my muscles literally have no strength to hold me up.
Why is this important? Well, when you laugh, your muscles relax.
It’s that simple. Muscle relaxation assists in the down-regulation of stress. The states of muscle tension and relaxation are opposite. One cannot exist with the other. That is, when your muscles are relaxed, they cannot be tense, and vice versa.
When you relax your muscles, you relax the tension, you lower your heart rate and blood pressure, and as you laugh, more oxygen is forced into your lungs, thereby lowering your breathing rate.
And therefore, you simultaneously engage the relaxation response and down-regulate the stress response.
So what’s the moral of this story?
Allow yourself to play, and Laugh freely and loud! 🙂