In the 2017 United Nations World Happiness Report, South Africa was ranked 101 out of 155 countries in the happiness stakes (while Norway bagged the number-one spot). It’s clear we’re not a particularly content country, so how do we bring a little more happiness into our lives?
Read more: Your A to Z happiness guide
Research suggests that one of the best – and most beneficial – ways to do this is by laughing. Not only can a good giggle boost the immune system and relieve stress, but it can also increase creativity.
But laughing doesn’t always come naturally, especially when we’re stuck in the doldrums or dealing with the daily humdrum of work, traffic, and thinking about what’s for dinner.
So, here are some tips on how to laugh yourself happy:
1. Fake it
Fake laughter is as good as the genuine kind, as the body doesn’t even know the difference, says Cape Town-based certified laughter coach, Bronwyn Kilroe.
During her ‘laughter sessions’, participants learn laughing exercises combined with power clapping and a breathing technique. A ‘fake’ laughter session will bypass the intellectual systems that normally act as a brake on natural laughter.
‘Laughter comes from the body, and the whole point of my sessions is to get you out of your mind and into your body,’ explains Bronwyn. According to her, the main goal of the sessions is to help you lose your inhibitions, so that laughter will come more naturally to you in daily life.
2. Surround yourself with funny people
Research done by Finland’s Aalto University, the Turku PET Centre, and Oxford University shows that not only does laughter release endorphins in the brain – which help to increase those feel-good hormones in your body – but it also promotes social bonding.
So try to spend time with people who see the funny side of life – ask your jovial colleague to join you for a coffee break or Facetime your long-distance friend who posts funny pictures on social media.
And don’t forget to laugh at yourself. ‘A great sense of humour can add up to eight years to your lifespan,’ adds Bronwyn.
3. Make it a habit
Make a conscious effort to seek out humour every day, so that it becomes a routine part of your life.
Scan your social media for silly headlines in the morning, load a funny podcast for your drive home from work, or unwind at the end of the day with a comedy series. Subscribe to a joke of the day and laugh, rather than sigh, when you open your inbox.
Read a humorous memoir. Try Tina Fey’s Bossypants or The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer. Schedule a date with your couch, popcorn and your favourite comedy. Arrested Development always gets us guffawing.
4. Use it as a life tool
Re-train your brain to laugh out loud instead of stressing when life throws you curve balls. ‘If you use laughter as a tool, you’ll immediately notice how much better you feel about a tough situation,’ says Bronwyn.
Visit laughtersessions.co.za to find out more about Bronwyn’s Laughter Skills E-Coaching