Why is laughter good for your health?

Published 16 Apr 2023 • By Polina Kochetkova

What can be better than joking with your friends, watching a comedy show or reading a funny story online? Indeed, laughing and giggling can bring a lot of joy and change your mood almost instantly. But why does it happen? Why is laughter good for both your mental and physical state? And what exactly does laughing do to us?    

In this article, we discuss the importance of laughter in our lives, analyze why laughter can be very beneficial for mental and physical health and share tips on how to be more optimistic in everyday life!

Keep reading to find out more! 

Why is laughter good for your health?

What can be better than joking with your friends, watching a comedy show or reading a funny story online? Indeed, laughing and giggling can bring a lot of joy and change your mood almost instantly. But why does it happen? Why is laughter good for both your mental and physical state? And what exactly does laughing do to us? 

Laughter is commonly referred to as “the best medicine” and today we are going to explore what makes laughing such a positive activity. 

One of the first journalists who talked about the beneficial effects of laughter was Norman Cousins. In the 60s Norman was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis (a degenerative disease which causes the collagen to break down). After being told that Western medicine had very small possibilities of helping his irreversible condition, Cousins decided to take the matter in his own hands. His choice of medication was Vitamin C and a drug called laughter. Cousins started watching more comedy movies and shows, that were putting him in a better mood as well as reading funny magazine columns. After his hospitalization in 1964 because of a high fever, severe pain and near-paralysis of the legs, neck and back, he said: "Being unable to move my body was all the evidence I needed that the specialists were dealing with real concerns. But deep down, I knew I had a good chance and relished the idea of bucking the odds."  

Partnering medical treatments and Cousin’s positive approach helped him ease the symptoms of his condition and later restart his journalist career by publishing two books, describing his method and joining the UCLA’s faculty of School of Medicine as a professor of medical humanities and a researcher in the biochemistry of emotions. 

In one of his books “Anatomy of an Illness” he wrote "I made the joyous discovery that 10 minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep". It is important to know that laughing therapy is not a substitute for prescribed medication or therapy, however laughter can have beneficial effects on overall well-being. 

Laughing is truly one of the best medications with immediate results. A good laugh can help us lower stress levels, boost the immune system, ease pain and much more!  

What are the benefits of laughing? 

Physical benefits

Laughter has been scientifically proven to boost our immune systems, lower blood pressure, and decrease cortisol - stress hormones. 

Our bodies create endorphins when we laugh, which are natural painkillers that lessen pain and increase sensations of pleasure and happiness. A 2006 study suggests that laughter can lower inflammatory symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis patients, by aiding in the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines. The study concludes that laughter affected people differently, depending on the activity of the disease, with the best results in people with lower RA activity. 

In patients with severe COPD, a funny intervention that made them smile was able to lessen hyperinflation. In patients with symptomatic blockage, a breathing method inspired by smiling may be used in addition to pursed-lips breathing. 

Also, laughter increases blood flow and oxygenation, which enhances our cardiovascular health and contributes to increase energy and a sense of well-being. Although laughing cannot be classified as a physical exercise, it still has the potential of burning calories. According to the US department of Veteran Affairs, 15 minutes of genuine laughter can burn up to 40 calories

Laughing can, as well, boost the human growth hormones, by producing beta - endorphins, which are the chemicals in our bodies that can make us feel happy. 

In schizophrenia patients, laughing therapy can be used to help with rehabilitation and better sense of humor. 

Mental benefits 

Our emotional condition and general mental health can be greatly impacted by laughter. Laughing has been proven to lower depressive and anxious thoughts, boost self-esteem, and encourage a more optimistic attitude on life. Norman Cousins, who experienced recovery after combining medical treatment and laughing therapy, believed that physical treatment is only half of the recovery process. The second half is the patient’s attitude and mindset. “Not every illness can be overcome. But many people allow illness to disfigure their lives more than it should. They cave in needlessly. They ignore and weaken whatever powers they have for standing erect. There is always a margin within which life can be lived with meaning and even with a certain measure of joy, despite illness.”, he said.  

By giving us a sense of perspective and encouraging us to take things less seriously, humor can also help us cope with tense situations. Laughter can provide muscle relaxation and blood pressure regulation, to ease tensions in our body.  

Laughing therapy can be a great idea for people struggling with depression and anxiety, as the method is noninvasive nor pharmacological. Watching your favorite comedy movie or reading a funny column, can better the mood and decrease depression and anxiety symptoms

In addition, laughing stimulates us to think creatively and approaches problems with a more open and flexible perspective. This helps us solve problems more effectively.  

Social benefits 

Laughter is a potent relationship-building and relationship-strengthening technique. Sharing a laugh can create bonds between people and develop feelings of trust and closeness.  

Also, it can aid in removing obstacles and lowering social anxiety, making it simpler to interact with others and build long lasting relationships.  

Furthermore, laughing with others can build a sense of belonging and community, both of which are crucial for general well-being.  

How to laugh more?

Indeed, laughing is a small positive action each one of us can do to better our health. But, what are some ways to laugh more? Sometimes, caught up in the hustle and bustle of daily life we can forget to have a giggle. Here are some ways you can incorporate laughter in your daily life:  

Watch a comedy movie or show

Do you have a funny movie you always wanted to watch but never did? It might be a great idea to put it on and have a nice laugh! 

Catch up with a friend 

Often people who make us laugh the most are our close friends. Reaching out to have lunch together, go to a park or simply have a long phone conversation can make you share a few jokes as well as deepen emotional connections! 

Try laughing yoga  

Why not mix sport and laughter at the same time? Look up at a local yoga group online and sign up for a laughing yoga session! As any yoga class, it is led by a professional which main focus is to improve your mood. 

Spend more time with pets 

Pets can be a lot of fun to watch or play with! Spending more time with your fourlegged friend can encourage laughter and boost your mood. If you do not have any animals at home, you can try going to a pet café or watching a funny cat video on YouTube

In conclusion, laughter is a basic yet effective strategy that can significantly improve our social, emotional, and physical well-being. We may enhance our general well-being and live happier, healthier, and more meaningful lives by including laughter in our daily lives. 

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Take care! 

1 comment

lesmal • Ambassador
on 07/05/2023

Thank you for an interesting article!

Laughter is the best medicine; I must admit even with epilepsy after 49 years I have learned to laugh at the weird and wonderful things I have done during the course of a seizure. Obviously, it has to be done at the right time and when we can look back at what has happened in that event.

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