It's a common saying that laughter is the best medicine, and this particular proverb is more true than you might think. Laughter can draw others in and create triggers for positive changes, including emotional ones like stress relief and personal connection. Physical changes linked to laughter include diminished pain and a strengthened immune system.
In order to laugh, you must breathe in more air, and this boosts oxygen intake. Thus, through a simple laugh, we stimulate our lungs, heart, and other muscles. Overall, a good laugh can provide a physical boost to circulation; it's a relatively short-lived benefit, though, so find another good laugh again soon after!
By laughing, the circulatory system also receives a boost in endorphins, our feel-good neurotransmitters. When people talk about a "runner’s high" or feeling great after an aerobics session, they are often unknowingly referring to an endorphin boost. Physical activity is an excellent way to increase the body's production of these chemicals healthily, but laughing is a pretty great one, too.
Laughter can provide a short, mild burst of pain relief, thanks to the spike in endorphins and positive emotions. Research also shows that laughter produces natural opioids — such as tiny amounts of morphine — even more effective pain relievers.
One particular study found a strong association between laughter shared with friends and the production of natural morphine. Although the effects of this painkiller are not as potent as a morphine drip, for instance, they can still dull the pain receptors in the brain.
After decades of research, cardiovascular experts have recognized the strong and complicated relationship between emotion and the health of the heart. At first, many studies focused on the relationship between negative emotions and increased risk for heart failure. It is common knowledge that people with a history of heart failure are encouraged to avoid stress.
However, recent research looks more closely at the relationship between positive emotions and heart health, and it turns out that laughter improves cardiovascular system function. The inner lining of our blood vessels is the largest organ in this system; not surprisingly, its health is closely linked to heart health. When we laugh, the brain releases beta-endorphins, which work within this inner lining. As a result, laughter makes the lining more reactive and improves its function!
Laughter creates a muscle-relaxing effect, spreading throughout the entire body and creating a general release of tension. A good, hearty laugh can ease the discomfort of tense shoulders and a stiff back. These relaxing effects can last up to 45 minutes for the average person.
For people looking to stay fit, laughter can help. While a good laugh can't replace a good session at the gym, it can boost your overall calorie burn for the day. Researchers have found that laughing for around 10 minutes a day can burn up to 40 calories.
This could help a person lose 4 pounds (1.81 kg) a year, so go ahead and cue up your favorite standup special on Netflix.
When a person is engaged in negative thoughts, the resulting stress causes chemical reactions that affect the body and have a net negative effect on the systems that govern health, including the immune system.
By regularly engaging in laughter and other mood-boosting activities — including, of course, healthy eating and exercise — we can prevent this response and keep our immune systems running at their best.
Laughter helps us out on the mental health front by providing a shift in perspective. When we laugh, our minds begin to see things as less threatening, and this can lead to having a less aggressive and more practical approach to an issue. Not only does reducing the perceived threat help diffuse conflict, but it also prevents people from feeling overwhelmed.
Sharing a laugh with others is a great way to connect. Research shows that when people laugh together, their sociability increases. This means that they can make new social connections more easily and strengthen existing relationships. Laughter might be the boost that every social life needs.
The body produces various stress hormones, including epinephrine, cortisol, dopamine, and growth hormone. Laughter, however, lowers the production of these problematic chemicals almost instantly. This means that after a laugh, your stress response can drop dramatically. Plus, the replacement of these stress hormones with increased endorphins means that the stress can transform into a good mood.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.