In one of my previous posts about reducing stress, I briefly mentioned the benefits that hugs and laughter help reduce stress. They are such fun, easy, and powerful techniques that anyone can do just about anywhere, I thought it was time to dive a little deeper and look at why they work and how we can actively start using them to reduce the negative effects of chronic stress.
Let’s start by talking about hugs. Have you ever noticed how a good hug will make you feel better? It calms you and changes your entire outlook on the world and whatever it is that’s been upsetting or stressing you out. Turns out there’s some science behind hugs and a reason we start to feel better.
There are measurable effects on your heart and the stress-level of your brain activity when you hug and those benefits will ramp up significantly around the twenty-second mark. As a bonus, your body will release oxytocin, a feel-good hormone. It’s no wonder your whole outlook starts to change after a good hug.
Start to hug your loved ones or your favorite pet more often and when you do, try to hold the hug for at least twenty seconds. Don’t be creepy about it, but if you’re comfortable – and you should be if you’re sharing a long hug – tell the other person about the benefits of these longer hugs. Before long it will become second nature and you’ll both continue to reap the rewards.
When hugging isn’t an option, or if you don’t enjoy them, give laughing a try. It relieves tension and reduces stress. As an added benefit, you’re drawing more air into your lungs, resulting in more oxygen being delivered to your heart, brain, and other important organs. Laughing often can even improve your immune system.
Put on a funny movie, watch a TV sitcom, read some funny cartoons, call a friend who makes you laugh, or just start laughing and fake it until you start to feel it. Laughter, it turns out, really is great medicine and great for both body and mind.
Fun fact for you. There’s even an entire sub-niche of yoga practitioners who do laughter yoga as a stress-busting technique. Can you see yourself taking a class where you go through various yoga exercises while also making a conscious effort to laugh out loud?