Guest post by Dr. Arturo Osorio
Stress is nearly inescapable these days. It can be overwhelming to the point that it negatively affects work, relationships, and the overall enjoyment of life. Fortunately, though, there’s something simple (and free) that can help relieve that stress. It’s laughter.
Laughing has both physical and mental health benefits, including stimulating the production of the feel-good hormones known as endorphins. These endorphins race through your body, causing feelings of relaxation and happiness.
It causes a positive effect on the body and mind that a new phenomenon to alleviate stress, called laughter therapy, is gaining in popularity around the world.
What is laughter therapy? It’s the therapeutic use of laughter to alleviate pain and stress to improve the feeling of overall well-being. Laughter, then, can be a great healer.
In addition, finding more ways to laugh can provide a way to avoid leaning towards the more harmful methods of dealing with stress, such as overeating, substance abuse, or addiction.
Fortunately, here in London, there are many fun, cheap, and even free things that will help get out that laughter and tackle stress. Six, in particular, can be easily highlighted and spotted:
#1 | Attend a Free Stand-up Comedy Show
Comedy clubs and venues abound throughout London, and many offer free stand-up comedy shows on different nights of the week. A variety of great comedians perform at these locations and go the extra mile to make the audience laugh.
One location, the Theatre Royal Stratford East, offers a free-comedy night every Monday. Expect to see a headliner along with a complementing act.
Another option is The Bill Murray comedy pub for entertainment. Free shows showcase up-and-comers and also circuit regulars on weekends and during the week.
#2 | Catch an Authentic Shakespearean Comedy at The Globe
William Shakespeare liked to have fun, and it clearly shows in his comedies. Head over to The Globe playhouse to experience one of these in a setting much like that from the 1600s.
Watch the schedule for performances, such as Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or The Comedy of Errors, and get ready to laugh.
The cost is a mere £5 for a standing ticket, allowing entertaining views of the open-air performance. Tickets for seating can also be purchased, usually for under £20.
In addition to laughing, being surrounded by other happy people at these plays can help relieve stress even quicker.
Positivity is contagious and inspiring, and when surrounded by laughter, the overall energy becomes positive as well.
#3 | Observe Street Performers and Artists
Wandering around London provides many opportunities to chance upon funny street performers and artists that will help anyone forget about their stress for a while.
Head to Trafalgar Square and find an entertaining act among the street performers there. Venture to Covent Garden Market to find funny people doing unusually funny things also. Many in the audience are asked to participate, laughing at themselves along with the performers.
One of the benefits of such a location is that it is filled with playful people who value fun and laughter. Many of them are lighthearted and laugh easily, finding humor in the most subtle, everyday life occurrences. Their laughter is contagious and perfect for those in need of a good stress-relieving laugh.
#4 | Watch Animal Antics at One of London’s Many Parks
No one can deny that animals often do funny things, and who can’t help but laugh at the innocent entertainment they provide. London offers several parks to encounter these natural entertainers, so choose one or two to explore when feeling stressed.
Watch the antics of pelicans while strolling through St. James Park. Laugh at the squirrels, birds, and other animals along the way as well. Animal surprises can often be the best-unexpected ones, and they don’t cost a thing.
These cute, funny encounters can blast your brain with dopamine, eliciting a feeling of joy similar to that of substance use disorders, but without the negative effects on your health.
While it’s true that watching funny animal videos online can make you laugh, getting outside in nature adds an extra beneficial element that is calming. Nature is by far one of the best stress relievers available.
Another option is to head to London Wetlands Centre and laugh at the playful otters or the swimming ducks. The London Aquarium is also filled with amusing animals, including a fun Penguin Exhibit.
Entrance fees may run a little high but maybe worth it if it helps to relieve stress. Stay on the lookout for discounts whenever possible.
#5 | Attend a Laughter Yoga Class
Go one extra step and attend a laughter yoga class. Designed as an easily accessible form of laughter therapy, these yoga classes guide you through postures and fake laughter exercises until you find yourself laughing freely on your own. Even if that doesn’t happen, fake laughter can be as effective as genuine laughing.
Call around to the various yoga studios in London and ask if they offer a free laughter yoga class or a low-cost option.
#6 | Sing Out Loud at The Prince Charles Cinema
Rather than simply singing in your shower, head over to The Prince Charles Cinema for a singalong move experience. Watch the schedule for one you find funny and join in, singing out loud the musical hits that make up that particular movie. Maybe it will be Grease or Mamma Mia or Moulin Rouge.
Memberships are available, which may help you save some extra money in the long run, or purchase an individual ticket for around £12.50.
Singing is good for your mental and physical health. It has been shown to reduce the level of cortisol, the stress hormone, in the body. Combine that with a fun and entertaining venue, and stress doesn’t stand a chance. Laugh as you belt out those tunes.
Choose one or all of these things to add more laughter to life and feel your stress fade away.