Children laugh about 400 times a day*, but adults only manage around 15 bouts of giggles. Science shows laughter has wide-ranging benefits for your mind and body. The same applies to colouring in; while we tend to leave the art of staying inside the lines behind, but psychologists agree that when it comes to fighting stress, colouring pencils can be powerful soothers!
Laughter does more than feel good, it actually does you good, too. When you laugh your body releases happy hormones known as endorphins into your bloodstream. These cheer you up, but they also act as a natural painkiller. A good giggle can increase blood flow and lowers blood pressure, both of which ultimately contribute to keeping your heart healthy and giggling gives you a good workout. Researchers at the University of Michigan* calculated that just 20 seconds of laughter could be as good for the lungs as three minutes on a rowing machine and it expands and contracts your abs, for a nifty tummy tone-up.
Stress-busting belly laughs
Studies have shown the health impacts of laughter. While you laugh, muscles are activated but immediately after - and for as long as 45 minutes - your muscles relax, relieving tension caused by stress. Researchers have also shown that humour can help you feel more able to cope with feelings of stress, and that resilience has a lasting impact. We all know that keeping a positive outlook through tough times helps us combat stress, and regular laughter helps you recharge. Humour can also give you perspective, so you don’t feel so overwhelmed, whatever life throws at you.
We all know that laughter is infectious - we’re drawn to people who make us giggle and it’s also a powerful antidote to conflict. Being able to see the funny side keeps you grounded, making you a better team player and helps to defuse conflict. Just hearing someone laugh triggers positive feelings towards them, helping you bond, so psychologists agree that shared laughter is crucial to relationship longevity. A recent study** found that couples who laugh together report feeling more satisfied and supported. Rom-com movie night, anyone?
Bring on the belly laughs!
Take advantage of the feel-good benefits of laughing by creating daily opportunities to get your giggle on. Make a daily date with funny films, TV shows, radio programmes and podcasts seek out funny people, share funny stories of your own, watch youtube clips that friends have shared on social media and play with the kids in your family.
The colouring craze
Adult colouring-in books are booming, and for good reason; psychologists agree they help us feel calmer, more relaxed and better able to focus. It’s similar to mindfulness, where you keep your mind in the moment rather than worrying about the past or stressing about the future. When you colour, your brain is engaged, which slows whirring worries, and helps you achieve what psychologists call a state of ‘flow’ - you’re in the zone, fully immersed in something. It’s effortless concentration and it feels really good!
Colour yourself calm
Focussing your mind on colouring a beautiful picture stops you focusing on intrusive negative thoughts.
If you’ve got something buzzing round your mind and you’re finding it hard to see the wood for the trees, taking some time out and using your brain in different way can help you make sense of it. It’s a bit like when you have something on your mind at work, then you leave your desk to make a cuppa and have a flash of genius! So if your mind is buzzing, take a few minutes out to colour, and feel the tension melt away. It’s an ideal way to quiet a busy, stressed-out mind.
* Laughter therapy_The Guardian_July 2008
** Putting laughter in context: Shared laughter as behavioral indicator of relationship well-being – L. E. Krutz & S. B Algoe
26TH February 2016