Do you remember the last time that you really laughed. I mean really, really laughed. Remember that feeling, what you heard and what you saw, maybe what you said to yourself at the time? Have you ever laughed so hard you could not stop? When was the last time, can you remember? What a great feeling that is, laughter. Or how about the last time you did something just for a giggle?

We all feel better when we are happy. Goes without saying doesn’t it really?

In a life where many people are coping with a lot of work pressure, or maybe the pressure of being unemployed, many live with a lot of stress on a day to day basis. Do we really know how stress affects us?

We are bombarded with information that stress makes you sick. It increases the risk of everything from the common cold to something as serious as heart disease. When we are experiencing high levels of stress the adrenal glands secrete cortisol, often called the “stress hormone”. If these levels of stress are longer lasting then the secretion can get disrupted and under these circumstances can promote weight gain. Not only that but some studies have shown that stress and elevated cortisol tend to cause fat deposition in the abdominal area rather than in the hips. This fat deposition has been referred to as “toxic fat” since abdominal fat deposition is strongly correlated with the development of cardiovascular disease including heart attacks and strokes.

We probably put a lot of pressure on ourselves to achieve too. It is a fast paced life, and we are in the fast lane most of the time. The expectation of ourselves is often insurmountable.

So what can we do about it I hear you cry! Well plenty actually.

There was a study done at the university of Wisconsin-Madison in 2012 looking at the effects of stress on the body. In my opinion one of their most significant findings was that the way we structure our beliefs about stress can have a very different affect on the body. If we believe stress is bad then all the elements mentioned above could be true. However, their studies found that people who believed stress was a good thing actually had more resilience to stress than those people with very low stress levels. Go figure! Can how you feel about stress make you healthier? Science says yes. The power of belief is quite remarkable.

At the University of Maryland Medical Research Centre in 2005 it was concluded that there is a link between laughter and the healthy function of blood vessels. They found that laughter causes dilatation of the blood vessels and increases blood flow. Not only that, it can lead to the reduction in stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine. It also boosts antibodies which leads to a stronger immune system.

By purposefully seeking those things that make us giggle and laugh, we can do a lot to promote health and reduce stress.

Did you also know just smiling can also increase the feeling of happiness? Even if you have to fake it till you make it, you will still get the positive results until suddenly you will find it is completely genuine. It is also catching, try it next time you are out and see how many people smile back, then see how you feel by the end of the day!

When we are happy our bodies also release serotonin, the “Happy Hormone”. Laughter is the best medicine is a phrase we often hear. Well many a true word said in jest. It helps regulate mood, appetite and sleep. It also aids memory and learning. It regulates blood clotting and physical healing so actually it can counteract the negative effects of cortisol.

In conclusion, what should you be adding to your New Year’s resolutions for 2015? Get the Giggles!

Find activities that give you pleasure, go about with friends for a giggle, go watch a good comedy or perhaps some stand up if that is what makes you laugh. Find something to giggle about in your daily routine.  You could even try a Laughter Yoga class!

“I’ve built a stock car… it runs Bisto Gravy Granules and OXO cubes!”

“I was in the park today and wondered why does a frisbee seem bigger the closer it gets? Then it hit me.”

“The rule ‘i before e except after c’ has been disproved by science.”

Laughter is one of the best stress management strategies you can employ, and it is completely free. Have a New Year full of fun and laughter!

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