OPINION

The health benefits of laughter are no joke

The health benefits of laughter are no joke

From the Bible to Reader's Digest, we're told "laughter is the best medicine."

Laughter is ancient, primitive and instinctual, and a fundamental part of everyday life - something most of us indulge in naturally.

There are comedy channels on TV, comedy festivals and our favourite funny friend who's sure to get our giggle on.

So why do we need laughter experts? Surely they're for people who can't laugh for whatever reason, like a sex therapist is for when that department hits a roadblock.

However, while the ability to laugh is innate, the decision to activate and use it to its full ability is a choice.

When life gets stressful, illness creeps in, relationships are put to the test or we're struggling financially, there's rarely much to laugh about.

So, we don't. Yet tuning into the lighter, more humorous side of life and activating one's "laughter self" is critical to mental health.

Rather than waiting for something funny to happen or for life to be a bed of roses, we can transform our emotional state by tapping into our laughter and humour resource.

This helps create distance between us and our pain, and improve mood and resilience to stress.

It provides relief and release from some of the stress that has embedded in our body and mind, freeing ourselves to power forward, even a little.

Ironically, because laughter is an innate and largely unconscious behaviour, it's rarely given much thought.

As it's seldom thought about, it can't be that important.

Wrong. If laughing was a more complex behaviour, my belief is people would pay greater homage to it, rather than something to laugh off.

It's actually one of the most complicated things our bodies process. It is a vocal means of communication before language forms and the brain has fully developed.

The ability to laugh in the vast majority remaining until our final curtain, even amidst declining cognitive function.

As we emerge from a COVID-19 world, workplaces are adjusting to a hybrid working model.

Turning towards the healing power of humour and laughter assists personal and professional resilience, performance and wellbeing. No joke.

La Trobe University is offering a world-first laughter, resilience and wellbeing online course exploring laughter-related theories and skills to apply in the workplace. This is no laughing matter.

Ros Ben-Moshe is co-ordinator of the Laughter, Resilience and Wellbeing short course, La Trobe University and director of LaughLife Wellbeing Programs.

This story The health benefits of laughter are no joke first appeared on The Canberra Times.