If there was one simple thing you could do each and every day to make yourself happier, and improve your health at the same time, wouldn’t you do it? Well, it’s a good thing there is—and it’s as easy as having a laugh.
Giggle, snort, snicker, chuckle, guffaw . . . there are so many ways your mirth can manifest itself. If you’re anything like us, the words themselves might bring a smile to your face. That’s because laughter is contagious. Isn’t it true that when your friend used to giggle behind her hands in class, you couldn’t help but laugh along with her, to the chagrin of your teacher? Even if it sometimes got us into trouble in grade school, laughter has been proven time and time again to benefit our health. That goes for “self-initiated” laughter, too! (Laughter yoga, anyone?)
Whether it provides stress relief, perspective to counterbalance life’s hardships, or simply functions as the joyful, contagious social behavior it is, there are so many reasons why laughter is good for your health. Some of the benefits of laughing include:
Stress management. Quite literally, laughing is natural stress relief; it decreases levels of stress hormones like cortisol, adrenaline, dopamine, and growth hormone. Laughter therapy—a kind of cognitive-behavioral therapy that helps to make physical, psychological, and social relationships healthy—also has great physical and mental benefits.
It provides perspective. It sounds simplistic, but if you change your perspective, you may be able to change your life—one positive thought at a time. And what easier way is there to do so when you’re having a bad day, in an off mood, or dealing with some kind of setback than to make yourself laugh? So it’s not always that easy, but sometimes it can be as simple as watching a funny video clip online or calling that friend who’s always able to cheer you up with a quippy remark or two.
It brings people together. Speaking of calling up a friend, laughing is a contagious social activity; not only does a good side-splitting guffaw bring people together, some even view that as its main function. After all, a collective giggle can ripple through a room full of strangers, transforming it from a new and uncertain social setting to one of hearty, welcome comfort—all through the power of laughter.
Better yet? Getting your giggle on with your close friends, of course! In fact, “social laughter” is borderline addictive. This 2017 study showed that 30 minutes spent watching hilarious comedy clips with their good friends caused the release of endorphins via opioid receptors in subjects’ brains. You’ve likely heard that eating chocolate releases dopamine in the brain, but did you know that laughter could produce a similar experience?
The physical benefits are comparable to those of exercise. According to a literature review quoted by The Gerontologist, “the physical act of laughter shares many common benefits associated with exercise.” These include exercising and relaxing muscles; improving respiration; stimulating circulation; and more. That’s right, laughing until your stomach hurts is definitively good for your physical wellbeing. If you ask us, that’s reason enough for us to enjoy our laughter medicine even more than we normally do.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.