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Laugh Your Way to an Exam Pass

Why smiling through adversity makes sense

“Laughter is inner jogging.”

Norman Cousins

Laughter is the Best Medicine

What, you might ask, has humour got to do with passing exams? After all, most people would find it difficult to even raise a smile when contemplating a forthcoming exam. It’s hardly a laughing matter!

It’s like this. There is a multitude of scientific evidence which proves the beneficial effect of humour on an individual. It seems that laughter really is the best medicine.

Laughter has been proven to have many beneficial effects. Experiments show that it lowers blood pressure, reduces muscle tension, has a beneficial effect on the immune system, lowers the level of stress-related neurotransmitters, and increases levels of natural painkillers, such as endorphins. All in all a pretty potent get-well-soon medicine, I’m sure you would agree. And best of all, it can be got for free!

Laughter and Study

In the context of study, gaining access to these benefits can be nothing but good. Not only do the immediate physical effects do you good, but the more general “feel-good” factor which comes from the physical state produced by laughter is itself good for improving your overall mood. The better and more relaxed you feel, the more positive your state of mind. The more positive your state of mind, the better you study. And so on.

Where Do I Get My Free Laughter?

There are numerous methods of accessing these benefits, of course, and I’m sure I don’t really need to give you instructions here on how to do so. Maybe you like tuning into Sienfield re-runs on cable, or maybe you prefer your Frasier DVDs. Then again, it might be the local nightly comedy club venue or the neighbourhood bar comic.

Do whatever it is that works for you. If classic Monty Python is your thing, great – watch the Dead Parrot sketch yet again and let those guffaws out. But just do it. The important thing is to make the time.

But what if you can’t find the time right now? What if, with study and work commitments, you just haven’t got a free time slot? Well, in this case, even a smile helps. Experiments have shown that a smile is enough to produce those same “feel-good” chemicals that laughter does.

Laugh – I’d Rather Cry…

Perhaps you don’t feel like smiling right this second. Things are hard, you’re feeling stressed, and the last thing you want to do is smile. Cry might be closer to the mark. Well, believe it or not, even in these circumstances, a smile will still help.

Experiments have shown that the very way you arrange your facial muscles and posture can change your feelings. Counterintuitive though it may seem, a conscious manipulation of facial muscles actively generates whatever emotion the face is showing. Appropriating a happy facial expression will lead to not only a increase in subjective emotional feelings of well-being, but also produces many physiological changes in the body associated with a happy state of mind. In addition, adopting happy facial expressions results in the same left frontal brain activity known to correlate to spontaneous joy.

Smile and We Feel Happy

Let me make this point clear in case you haven’t followed the facts. You might expect what we think is what affects our facial expression, a simple cause and effect relationship. We feel happy, we smile. We feel sad, we cry.

In fact, the experiments show this relationship can flow in reverse. What facial expression we choose to adopt can affect the way we feel. Choose to smile and you will literally feel better for doing so. We smile, we feel happy.

Don’t take my word for it, try it and see. The next time you are sitting at your desk and feel miserable, see what happens if you force a smile for 30 seconds (although you might want to try this alone if you’re worried your work colleagues will think you have finally lost the plot!). Hold that smile, and then see how you feel. You might just be pleasantly surprised.

“If a man insisted always on being serious, and never allowed himself a bit of fun
and relaxation, he would go mad or become unstable without knowing it.”

Herodotus