When we laugh, our bodies produce a hormone that triggers healthy changes in the body which help us heal from the impacts of stress. Laughter is also known to help boost your energy, your immune system and even reduce pain.
Now that’s powerful medicine!
When we experience stress, whether it’s because we are being chased by a bear or it’s because we just looked at our latest bank statement, what happens chemically in the body is the same.
Our brains release and shower our bodies with the hormone cortisol. This hormone is responsible for inflammation in the body. Inflammation has its own set of negative repercussions which I won’t get into, but in addition to inflammation, stress causes our heart rate and blood pressure to increase and our breath to become shallow and weak.
So you can probably start to imagine how stress over time, and without utilizing strategies to heal the body, can cause serious physiological damage. There are so many situations in our external world that have the potential to be stressful.
We don’t always have control over these things happening around us, but we do have control over the way we react to them and if/when we let go of them.
I believe if we do not learn how to cope with stress and heal, we compromise our health and our happiness. New research reveals that 80% of all diseases may actually be stress related.
That is why I feel so strongly about helping women better cope with stress by organizing their minds and their lives. The key is to make a conscious effort to incorporate stress relief activities in your daily routine and why I have shared my 5 tips to Heal from Stress. Laughter is just one of them.
What if I told you that this is even more important for women because we have a slight disadvantage when it comes to coping with stress? Why, do you ask?
This slight disadvantage comes from the fact that our limbic systems are twice as big as men’s. The limbic system is the area of the brain in charge of regulating emotion and memory.
It influences emotions, the intuitive responses to those emotions, motivation, mood, and sensations of pain and pleasure. So essentially because we have larger limbic systems, we hold on to stressful experiences longer because of the emotions attached to the experience.
When I first learned about the limbic system it explained a lot and the differences between me and my husband. Why my husband has such an easier time bouncing back from stressful situations and never brings up old events.
While every time I got annoyed with my husband I would connect it back to an incident that happened months or years back and feel those same emotions.
The good news is that Oxytocin, often called the stress ‘off-switch’ or the ‘love’ hormone lowers the stress hormone, cortisol. In order to produce oxytocin, we need to engage in certain activities like laughter that trigger a relaxation response both in the brain and in the body. During the relaxation response our mind clears, our muscles relax, and our heart rate and blood pressure lower.
Oxytocin is mainly released in three ways; during an orgasm and for women during labor and when breastfeeding. That’s it?
Thankfully, we there are several ways we can trick the body into releasing oxytocin, Here are 5 tips to releasing oxytocin and healing our bodies from stress:
This can be genuine or fake laughter, the brain doesn’t know the difference.
• So either spend a few minutes laughing by listening to your favorite comedian during your commute to work or while exercising
• Surround yourself with people who make you laugh
• Or just start laughing
2. Hug someone
• Embrace someone, it’s best when you hug someone you love
• Enjoy that hug and stay a little longer than normal and feel the effects
• If you don’t have the opportunity to hug someone you love, than imagine you are hugging someone you love or that you are being hugged by someone you love
• Cuddling has the same effect
3. Take a walk
• It doesn’t have to be long, even 10 minutes is beneficial
• Walking outside, is recommended and is statistically correlated with higher levels of oxytocin
• If your day is full of meetings, perhaps you can suggest a walking meeting with a co-worker, you might be surprised that when walking and talking business you can experience more inspirations, creativity and ah-ha moments!
4. Doing something you feel good about for someone else (read further for clarification)
• Please note I didn’t JUST say do something for someone else! Most often as women we do something for someone else, but we tend to over extend ourselves in the process. Perhaps it is out of obligation, or our attitude become negative. We could be slightly annoyed or feel resentment.
• Do something for someone that makes you feel really happy. And make sure you balance that by doing something for yourself as well! Maybe it’s giving to your favorite charity or randomly buying a loved one their favorite treat.
• Really notice what is behind your intention
• And do something for yourself while you are at it: take a bath, book a massage or plan a date with a friend
5. Breathe deep
• When our bodies are stressed we breathe shallowly and fast.
• Breathing deep is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. This is because when you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax. The brain then sends this message to your body which slows down your heart rate and decreases your blood pressure
• Ideally sit comfortably, close your eyes, set a timer for 2-3 minutes and just allow yourself to inhale and exhale, each for the count of 5 seconds. Try not to judge yourself for being distracted when distractions come up.
Our brains are just doing their job. When distracted bring yourself back to the breath. And just keeping doing that over time it gets easier. But know that we all struggle with it, even those that have been practicing meditation for years.
So which one of these tips I shared sounds doable for you on a daily basis? Pick one and make a conscious effort to work this into your schedule once a day and commit to it for the next week.
Even a few minutes can make the world of difference.
Notice your resistance, own it and then take action. That is the only way to start living the life you deserve!