Did you know that January 24th is Global Belly Laugh Day? That’s right. It’s a day on which we should all carve out some time to take a break from the world, throw our heads back, and quite literally laugh out loud. Technically this should be done at 1:24pm, though I’d wager to guess that any time on the 24th is okay.
Global Belly Laugh Day is a relatively new holiday which wasn’t around in 2005, when Elain Helle, a certified Laughter Yoga Teacher, felt the need to make it official. I for one am glad she created this holiday – and I think that now, more than ever, we could all benefit from a little laughter.
I know that I feel better after a good laugh; more relaxed, at ease, happier. I have definitely found myself surrendering to laughter in times of stress; sometimes it’s all you can do. And you know what? No matter how tough the situation is, I do feel better after a good laugh, even if it’s just for a few moments.
Believe it or not, there are number of documented benefits to laughter. To begin with, it’s been proven to decrease stress. In fact, it actually leads to certain physical changes in your body. According to the Mayo Clinic, some short-term benefits of laughter include:
- Stimulates your organs: Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.
- Activates and relieve your stress response: A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response, and it can increase and then decrease your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.
- Soothes tension: Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.
Laughter increases endorphins and decreases stress hormones like cortisol, dopamine and epinephrine. It’s also contagious and an important element of social bonding. As we share in laughter with our friends and loved ones, or even strangers on the street, not only are we benefiting individually, we’re benefiting as a society. In fact, research studies have shown that social laughter releases endorphins in the brain, which leads to feelings of safety and togetherness. But we don’t need research to tell us this is true. How many times have you found yourself cracking a smile when someone’s laughing on TV, or joining in as your friend starts laughing? It’s almost impossible not to catch someone’s (well-intentioned) laughter and join in.
The last few years have been hard; there is no point in sugarcoating the obvious. Even now, 2022 has already presented us with new challenges and obstacles. So maybe, on January 24th, we might all benefit from taking a moment to pause and remember some of the joyful, funny moments that have undoubtedly also taken place:
- What helped you laugh?
- Where were you?
- Who were you with?
- What smells do you remember?
- What sounds do you remember?
E.E. Cummings said it best when he said, “the most wasted of all days is one without laughter.” Let’s not waste any days in 2022.