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Why We Should Laugh More

MICF 2016

When was the last time you were breathless from laughter?

Not a difficult question at all, yet most of us would have had to pause in search of a specific answer. Laughter, which should be the easiest and most indulged in activity of our day, has somehow become a novelty in the face of our daily stresses and life’s obstacle courses. And this is a dangerous thing. Losing our sense of humour not only turns us into colourless people but also makes us more likely to crumble when the going gets tough.

However, the very fact that the Melbourne International Comedy Festival is raising its curtains for the 30th consecutive year is a sign that laughter is still very present and welcome in our lives. Four Australian comedians who will take the stage at the festival tell woman with drive why we should laugh until it hurts.

Also read: The Third Key To Happiness


For a swift emotional lift

The physical act of laughing involves simple muscular exertions that trigger a release of endorphins, the brain chemicals known for its feel-good effect and role as a natural painkiller. For Tegan Higginbotham, laughter is more than just an instant picker-upper. It is also nourishment for the soul.

“Like a home cooked meal or spending time with a loved one, laughter nourishes the soul. And in this busy day and age, keeping your soul happy is just as important as eating your veggies.”


To squash stress and anxiety

The release of endorphins does not just boost our mood but also reduces the stress hormone cortisol and lowers our levels of anxiety. Tegan likens laughing while feeling stressed to sneezing with our eyes open. It is impossible.

“Whether it is for a second, a minute or the entire length of a comedy, laughter frees you from the shackles of worry and lets you breathe a little. And when your face is squished up in a smile and your eyes filled with tears of laughter, your insides start to feel better too.”


To boost social interaction and bonding

As children, we learn the language of humour long before we develop our speech patterns. And in a foreign setting, it is often the relaxed, contagious nature of social laughter that lowers boundaries, bridges the gap and fosters bonding among individuals in a group.

According to Diana Nguyen, telling jokes or funny stories about life makes us more relatable to others. “When the audience laughs, they are tracing back and recognising their own memories. It is like getting naked together.”

Alice Fraser, meanwhile, deems laughter a pre-requisite for an open mind. “Joke structures play with logic and insight, and if you cannot laugh at twists of perception and the world, you will find it very hard to change your mind.”


For resilience building

Humour also contributes to our resilience by helping us put daily problems into perspective and enhancing our coping abilities in tough situations. And sometimes it even nudges us to see the funny side of adversity.

“Laughing lets out the tension that poisons you, and gives you the best tools in the world to resist all of the things that are wrong,” says Alice Fraser.

Or as Susie Youssef aptly puts it, “Laughter is powerful beyond belief – it disarms anxiety and kicks fear in the pants.”


For a strong immune system

Even the most basic stressful experiences in daily life can gradually take a toll on our immune system. A good sense of humour prevents this from happening and protects us from various bouts of illness.

Diana is very matter-of-fact about this and says, “If we do not laugh, we will combust like a car that has very old oil running through it and clogging it up. Laughter is the second engine to life.”

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