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> Benefits Of Laughter > Why More Laughter = Less Stress = Better Health And More Energy
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Here is a summary of the various ways how laughter impacts stress. Stress is a well-known slow killer, is rampant in our society, and is very expensive on all levels. Its mechanisms are complex. It impacts everybody differently, but its end-result is easy to observe and explain. It creates havoc in the human body, leads to depression, kills creativity, isolates people when they most need social connections and slowly destroys one’s self-esteem. Stress cannot be ignored.

Gentlemen, why don’t you laugh? With the fearful strain that is upon me day and night, if I did not laugh I should die, and you need this medicine as much as I do. Abraham Lincoln, during the Civil War
Laughter triggers the release of a cocktail of happy chemicals that boosts the immune responses Laughter diminishes the secretion of cortisol and epinephrine, while enhancing immune reactivity Laughter boosts secretion of growth hormone Laughing leads to the release of endorphins laughter can help dislodge blocked emotions stored in the body Laughter stimulates circulation and aids muscle relaxation
Why chronic stress is bad

When the body is under deep stress, it releases a hormone called cortisol that has a profound impact on your health because it directly suppresses the immune system. This makes a stressed person more vulnerable to attack from bacteria and viruses and can cause anything from generally feeling run down to full-blown flu and heart attacks.

Laughter is nature’s counter to bad stress

Laughter is the #1 natural enemy of bad stress because they are physiological opposites. The predominance of one tends to prevent the other. A clue to this may be found in the body’s typical actions after extreme stress of the fight or flight kind: deep panting (all relaxation response are exhalation based) and using laughter to make light of events that provoked fear. The predominance of one (deeper breathing and laughter) tends to prevent the other (fear).

Laughter helps improve the cardiac vagal tone, which reflects how much your heart rate is influenced by your breathing . It’s an indication of your body’s capacity to regain calm after you’ve been in a stressful situation. Low vagal tone has been linked to chronic inflammation throughout the body, which is a known risk factor for heart failure, stroke and diabetes. Research suggests that the more positive social connections people had over a nine week period, the more their vagal tone increased.

creative play;

• board games (good for impulse control (taking turns), planning, working memory, and mental flexibility (the ability to shift thoughts to an alternative, better pattern of thought if the situation requires);

games that involve memory (e.g. the shopping game – ‘I went shopping and I bought a [puppy]’; the next person says, ‘I went shopping and I bought a [puppy and a bike for my t-rex]’; next person … ‘I went shopping and I bought [a puppy, a bike for my t-rex and a hot air balloon] – the winner is the last one standing who doesn’t forget something on the shopping list;

exercise;

• giving them opportunities to think and act independently (if they disagree with you and tell you why you’re wrong, there’s a plus side – their executive functioning is flourishing!) ;

• providing opportunities for them to make their own decisions.

Mindfulness creates structural and functional changes in the brain that support a healthy response to stress. It strengthens the calming, rational prefrontal cortex and reduces activity in the instinctive, impulsive amygdala. It also strengthens the connections between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala. When this connection is strong, the calming prefrontal cortex will have more of a hand in decisions and behaviour. See here for fun ways that children can practice mindfulness.

See here for fun ways

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to make it more resilient to stress. One of the ways it does this is by increasing the neurochemicals that can calm the brain in times of stress. Anything that gets kids moving is stellar, but of course, if you can make it fun that pretty much grants you hero status. Here are some ideas, but get them thinking and they’ll have plenty of their own:

increasing the neurochemicals

• throw a frisbee;

kick a ball;

• give a hula-hoop a spin;

dance stars;

walk the dog;

superhero tag (the tagged one stands in the middle of a circle on the ground, a superhero saves them by using their superhero powers to fly with running feet through the circle);

detective (in the park or backyard … first one to find five things that are green; or five things starting with ‘s’; or seven things that could be used for dress-ups; or ten things that smell gorgeous – ready, set, go!).

Nurture that feeling in them – that one that reminds them they can do hard things. You’ll be doing this every time you acknowledge their strengths, the brave things they do, their effort when they do something difficult; and when you encourage them to make their own decisions. When they have a sense of mastery, they are less likely to be reactive to future stress and more likely to handle future challenges.

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