You may have heard it said that laughter is good for you, but do you know how, and how much? Scientists have researched the benefits of laughter on physical mental health and found that it lowers stress, reduces anxiety, eases depression, and strengthens your immune system.
Laughter also appears to ease pain, and may even help you to live longer. A 15-year study in Norway found that people with a strong sense of humor outlived those who didn’t laugh as much. The difference was particularly notable for those battling cancer. Here are some of the top ways laughter helps your health.
1. Laughter Relieves Stress
Laughing puts the brakes on your body’s fight-or-flight reaction to stressors, lowering production of the stress hormone cortisol. Less adrenaline, too, helps you relax and eases anxiety and negative thoughts. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.
2. Laughter Helps Fight Infection
Research shows laughing activates T-cells, specialized immune system cells that fight off infection, so you can better fight off sickness. Lower levels of stress hormones improve immune system performance as well.
3. Laughter Protects Your Heart
Laughter lowers blood pressure and improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, lowering blood pressures and helping protect you from a heart attack and cardiovascular disease. And according to researcher William Fry, hearty laughter actually provides a cardio workout.
4. Laughter Reduces Pain
Researchers at Oxford University documented the effects of laughter in boosting the release of endorphins, brain chemicals that give you a feeling of well being, noting that the feel-good chemicals also relieved pain.
5. Laughter Boosts Your Mood
Laughter triggers a release of dopamine, a “reward” neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and feelings of well-being. For this reason, humor is one of the best weapons against depression and severe anxiety. Doctors and therapists often recommend “laughter therapy” to combat depression and anxiety, ease stress, and cope with chronic pain. A few suggestions:
- Watch a classic comedy movie
- Stream a new sitcom
- Read out loud from a joke book
- Tell funny family stories
- Listen to a comedy podcast
- Read a comedian’s memoir
- Watch home movies