Laughing and crying contribute to our physical and mental health. So we should learn how to deal with our emotions, as this can help us improve our well-being.
When’s the last time you laughed until you cried? Expressed joy over a small thing in life? And when did you last sob your heart out? Emotions such as joy, sorrow, surprise and anxiety are part of our lives. Pleasant sensations don’t just give us satisfaction or happiness – they are essential to our health, creativity and social bonds.
We should learn to deal with our emotions and the feelings associated with them in a healthy way. According to Astrid Gabriel, psychological advisor at Helsana health consultation, these sensations are part and parcel of the body’s alarm and survival system. “Accepting our emotions is important for our health,” she adds. Ms Gabriel wishes for us to be more tolerant of ourselves and others when it comes to emotions. However, a high level of social pressure still exists: the belief that men shouldn’t cry – “which is obviously nonsense,” she adds – is deep-seated in society.
How we deal with emotions is a highly individual matter and depends on our life story, attitude and personal experience. Nevertheless, it is important to teach children that they are allowed to show emotion. “Children should learn to deal with emotions constructively,” explains Ms Gabriel. “But this only works by allowing them to experience them. Emotions must be felt before you can react to them and self-regulate.”
Children laugh about 400 times a day. When we grow up, life gets more serious – as adults, we only laugh up to 20 times a day. This is unfortunate, because laughing offers significant benefits. Laughing stimulates the circulation and boosts your immune system. Laughing is freeing, relaxing, and reduces stress, anger and anxiety. Plus, the hormones released by laughing cause feelings of happiness. They help us feel good in life and are, in turn, an important source of resilience.
Crying helps to combat stress: tears reduce stress hormones and our pulse and breathing even out. Crying also releases endorphins and oxytocin. Both hormones boost our mood and promote well-being. They are also called “happiness hormones” for this reason. Those who repress feelings over time are more prone to depression and high blood pressure. This weakens the immune system and leaves it more susceptible to infection.
In emotionally challenging times, it is important to be mindful of yourself. You should ask yourself how you are feeling and also talk to a good friend about it. According to psychological advisor Astrid Gabriel, these steps are key to being better able to handle stressful situations and staying healthy. “Positive communication with the inner self is important,” says Ms Gabriel. You can do this by deliberately making time for yourself. Or perhaps by starting a gratitude journal – asking yourself what you are thankful for before going to bed.
Relationships also help to reduce stress. As do a good work-life balance and regular exercise. Ms Gabriel recommends getting your heart rate up three times a day. This can be achieved by simply skipping in place for 20 seconds. “You should also consciously breathe into the belly over and over or think of something nice between breaths. That way you can centre yourself.”
People who are at peace with themselves tend to feel happy, which in turn impacts the body’s defences, making them stronger and increasing resilience. Resilience, or inner physical and mental strength, is also linked with our own sense of happiness. Just as realistic optimism has a positive influence on health. Studies show that people with a more optimistic outlook on life experience less stress and burnout and report higher levels of satisfaction with their lives.
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