The Health Benefit of Laughter Is No Joke
Have you ever noticed how relaxed you become after a good, hearty laugh? There’s a reason for that! Laughter reduces stress almost immediately by stimulating blood flow and relaxing the muscles. It’s like giving your body an internal massage. Laughter also releases a plethora of beneficial hormones (endorphins, serotonin, growth hormones) while reducing the level of stress hormones (cortisol, epinephrine, adrenaline).
Laughter has many long-term benefits as well, which include strengthening your immune system, relieving pain and easing depression. Research even suggests that repetitious laughter causes the body to respond in similar ways to moderate physical exercise, including lowering bad cholesterol (LDL) and raising good cholesterol (HDL). Norman Cousins, an American journalist, professor and world peace advocate, published his ability to heal himself with laughter in the New England Journal of Medicine in the 1970s.
Heal your heart with laughter
In addition to the benefits listed above, laughter is good for the heart. By increasing the flow of blood to the heart, blood pressure drops. Additionally, studies at the University of Maryland showed that blood flow increased when watching a comedic movie versus a stress-inducing film. The increase in blood flow after watching a comedy was equivalent to light exercise. Michael Miller, a cardiologist who led the study, said, “The recommendation for a healthy heart may one day be exercise, eat right and laugh a few times a day.”
Laughter sharpens the mind
Laughing is also good for the brain. A study at Johns Hopkins University Medical School showed that adding humor during classroom instruction led to higher test scores. In a study at Loma Linda University, test subjects who watched a funny video for 20 minutes scored better on short-term memory tests than the control group that sat quietly for 20 minutes.
Live long and laugh
Laughing may also extend your life. In a study of 53,000 seniors done by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, researchers discovered that study participants who had a sense of humor had a 20 percent lower mortality rate compared to those who had difficulty in finding the humor in life. As this and other studies show, laughter is an essential part of aging well.
So, now that you know that laughter is good for you, how do you go about laughing more? Here’s some tips to being more laughter into your life:
- Get together with friends. Laughter is contagious, so call up some friends who lift your spirits and go to a comedy club or a funny movie.
- Turn on the TV. With more channels that ever before, including on-demand TV, there’s always something funny to watch.
- Watch an online video. Short on time? Type “funny videos” into your favorite search engine and choose from all the choices available.
- Play with your pet. Animals allow us to “be in the moment” and their willingness to engage in playful activity is a good source of joyfulness.
- Take a Laughter Yoga class. Laughter yoga classes are the newest fitness craze and are popping up all over the world. Providence has two clubs. Find a class near you at laughteryoga.org.
Finally, make laughing a priority. Schedule some time each day to do something that makes you laugh. If all else fails, just start laughing. Even if laughter is forced, it provides many of the same benefits. You may discover that’s enough to start the real thing.