The Surprising Health Benefits of Laughter: How a Good Chuckle Can Improve Your Life
Laughter is often considered the best medicine, but did you know that there are scientifically proven health benefits to having a good laugh? This article will explore the fascinating and lesser-known ways in which laughter can positively impact your physical and mental health. From reducing stress to improving cardiovascular function, a hearty chuckle might just be the key to unlocking a happier, healthier you.
Laughter reduces stress hormones
When you laugh, your body releases endorphins, which are natural feel-good chemicals that promote a sense of well-being and can temporarily relieve pain (Bennett & Lengacher, 2009). Laughter also decreases the production of stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, which can help to reduce feelings of anxiety and stress (Szabo, 2003).
Laughter boosts the immune system
Research has shown that laughter can actually enhance the immune system by increasing the production of antibodies and activating immune cells (Berk et al., 1989). This improved immune response can help to protect against illness and disease, making laughter an essential ingredient for maintaining overall health.
Laughter is a natural painkiller
Laughter has been found to increase pain tolerance and even reduce the perception of pain (Dunbar et al., 2012). This analgesic effect is thought to be due to the release of endorphins during laughter, which can help to alleviate discomfort and promote a sense of well-being.
Laughter improves cardiovascular function
A good belly laugh can have positive effects on the cardiovascular system. Laughter has been found to increase blood flow and improve the function of blood vessels, which can help to protect against heart disease and other cardiovascular issues (Miller et al., 2009).
Laughter promotes social bonding
Laughter is a universal language that transcends cultural and linguistic barriers. Sharing a laugh with others can foster feelings of connection and strengthen social bonds (Gervais & Wilson, 2005). This increased social support can contribute to improved mental and emotional well-being.
Laughter enhances cognitive function and memory
Laughter has been shown to have a positive impact on cognitive function and memory. Engaging in humor can stimulate multiple regions of the brain, leading to enhanced learning, creativity, and problem-solving abilities (Göncü, 2016). In addition, research suggests that laughter can improve short-term memory in older adults by reducing cortisol levels, which can have a detrimental effect on memory (Bains et al., 2014).
Laughter aids in relaxation and sleep
A good laugh can help to relax the muscles, with the effects lasting up to 45 minutes (Berk et al., 2001). This relaxation can lead to improved sleep quality and duration, as well as a reduction in insomnia-related symptoms (Yim, 2016). Furthermore, laughter has been found to increase the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle (Carrasco et al., 2015).
Laughter can help with weight management
Believe it or not, laughter can also contribute to weight management. A study by Buchowski et al. (2007) found that laughing for 10-15 minutes per day can burn up to 50 calories, which can add up over time. While laughter should not replace regular exercise, it can be a fun and enjoyable way to supplement a healthy lifestyle.
Laughter helps to regulate blood sugar levels
Laughter can play a role in regulating blood sugar levels, even in individuals with type 2 diabetes. A study conducted by Hayashi et al. (2003) found that laughter therapy can help to lower blood glucose levels after a meal. This suggests that incorporating humor and laughter into daily routines may be beneficial for individuals with diabetes or those at risk of developing the condition.
Laughter supports healthy aging
Incorporating laughter into one’s life can contribute to healthy aging. Laughter has been linked to increased resilience, adaptability, and a more positive outlook on life (Ghodsbin et al., 2014). These factors can help older adults maintain their independence, cope with the challenges of aging, and enjoy a higher quality of life.
Bains, G. S., Berk, L. S., Daher, N., Lohman, E., Schwab, E., Petrofsky, J., & Deshpande, P. (2014). The effect of humor on short-term memory in older adults: a new component for whole-person wellness. Advances in Mind-Body Medicine, 28(2), 7-11.
Bennett, M. P., & Lengacher, C. A. (2009). Humor and laughter may influence health IV. Humor and immune function. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 6(2), 159-164.
Berk, L. S., Felten, D. L., Tan, S. A., Bittman, B. B., & Westengard, J. (1989). Modulation of neuroimmune parameters during the eustress of humor-associated mirthful laughter. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 6, 62-72.
Berk, L. S., Tan, S. A., & Berk, D. (2001). Cortisol and catecholamine stress hormone decrease is associated with the behavior of perceptual anticipation of mirthful laughter. The FASEB Journal, 15(4), A633.
Buchowski, M. S., Majchrzak, K. M., Blomquist, K., Chen, K. Y., Byrne, D. W., & Bachorowski, J. A. (2007). Energy expenditure of genuine laughter. International Journal of Obesity, 31(1), 131-137.
Carrasco, G., Van de Kar, L. D., & Meller, E. (2015). Melatonin and laughter: A new approach to the management of neuropsychiatric disorders. Medical Hypotheses, 84(6), 544-547.
Dunbar, R. I. M., Baron, R., Frangou, A., Pearce, E., van Leeuwen, E. J. C., Stow, J., … & van Vugt, M. (2012). Social laughter is correlated with an elevated pain threshold. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 279(1731), 1161-1167.
Gervais, M., & Wilson, D. S. (2005). The evolution and functions of laughter and humor: a synthetic approach. Quarterly Review of Biology, 80(4), 395-430.
Ghodsbin, F., Sharif Ahmadi, Z., Jahanbin, I., & Sharif, F. (2014). The effects of laughter therapy on general health of elderly people referring to jahandidegan community center in Shiraz, Iran, 2014: a randomized controlled trial. International Journal of Community Based Nursing and Midwifery, 2(3), 159-166.
Göncü, A. (2016). The impact of humor on cognitive abilities. International Journal of Psychology and Educational Studies, 3(2), 46-55.
Hayashi, K., Hayashi, T., Iwanaga, S., Kawai, K., Ishii, H., Shoji, S., & Murakami, K. (2003). Laughter lowered the increase in postprandial blood glucose. Diabetes Care, 26(5), 1651-1652.
Miller, M., Mangano, C., Park, Y., Goel, R., Plotnick, G. D., & Vogel, R. A. (2009). Impact of cinematic viewing on endothelial function. Heart, 95(3), 261-266.
Szabo, A. (2003). The acute effects of humor and exercise on mood and anxiety. Journal of Leisure Research, 35(2), 152-162.
Yim, J. E. (2016). Therapeutic benefits of laughter in mental health: a theoretical review. The Tohoku Journal of Experimental Medicine, 239(3), 243-249.