Back when I was in secondary school, I would cry laughing at least once or twice a week.
In fact I think most weeks something would set me off to the point of tears every single day.
I used to laugh at anything and everything – especially the things that weren’t supposed to be funny.
But, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become acutely aware of the absence of laugh-induced tears in my life.
When I went to visit my friend, Mary, who was often the source of my laughter in school, last month, there was a moment that really stuck out.
We were sitting in a restaurant, laughing at god-knows-what, tears streaming down our faces, and she said: ‘Oh my God, we can still cry laughing’.
The benefits of crying laughing
There’s a reason we long so much for those teenage years filled with happy tears: they’re simply good for us.
‘There are benefits to crying and laughing,’ Katherine Templar Lewis, expert in behavioural psychology and lead scientist on The Uncertainty Experts, tells Metro.co.uk.
‘So, when we do them together, we get the benefits of both, but normally without the sadness that can cause crying.’
This is thanks to the chemicals we release when we cry, such as endorphins, which reduce pain, make us feel good, and also aid in regulating and processing emotions.
Plus, laughter decreases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline and triggers the release of the same feel good chemical endorphins.
‘This decrease in stress hormones can be highly beneficial to our immune system and even our heart,’ explains Katherine.
‘Both crying and laughing relieves stress, so doing the two together gets a double benefit.’
Why do we cry laughing less as we get older?
Like I mentioned, laughing until we cry has become a rarity for me and Mary, as I’m sure it has for many others, too.
According to Katherine, this can generally be chalked up to the fact that we laugh much less often when we grow up.
‘Children laugh about 400 times a day,’ she explains.
‘As adults, we only laugh up to 20 times a day.’
For Katherine, social and cultural norms and expectations are to blame.
She continues: ‘We are taught by society that uncontrollable emotion, like laughing, is not appropriate and shows some sort of emotional weakness.
‘It could also be that we fear people may think we are laughing at them if they are not in on the joke, or understand what you are seeing as funny.’
These reasons, coupled with the general stress of getting older, taking on responsibilities and having to look after ourselves (not to mention a better understanding of the social and political climate) leave us with less opportunities to laugh, let alone cry laughing.
Tips for bringing more laughter into your life
Remember to play and be curious
Hang out with little kids and attempt to be as open as them – their sense of humour will always make you smile
Smile more and actually try to laugh harder – we can trigger laughing simply by imitating a fake laugh and the more you let yourself laugh, the more you will laugh, as you will start to rewire the brain to overrule the habit of not laughing when you want to
- Katherine Templar Lewis, expert in behavioural psychology
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