Health and Wellness Benefits of Laughter
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Laughter. It is how our bodies respond spontaneously to amusing events, conversations, images, and stories. Whether it be a light chuckle at a funny Instagram caption or an outburst of amusement at your favorite sitcom episode, laughter is an essential part of our lives and how we express joy and glee.
In modern society, people face a range of different stressors that come from various parts of their lives. We know that when we laugh, we experience a surge of happiness that can temporarily relieve us from our worries, but there are actually many more benefits to laughing than you may think. Recent studies and research have piled up evidence supporting the theories that laughter can bring both physical and mental benefits to our bodies.
If you have ever wondered why people say “laughter is the best medicine”, here are some reasons why this saying might be right.
1. Laughing can help improve your immune system
Laughing and immunity, as related as these two words may seem, a recent study has published data that supports the theory that laughing can actually improve your natural killer cell activities. Natural killer cells called lymphocytes have the primary role of responding to threats to your immune system. These are essential for the detection of cancer diseases and are responsible for killing infected cells.
A previous study used an intervention method where participants were shown humorous videos that induce laughter and then measured for natural killer cell activity levels. Results demonstrated that participants who were more receptive and responsive to humor had higher natural killer cell activity. This means that laughing helps increase natural killer cell activity, thus improving your immune system!
2. Laughing can burn calories
For sure, healthy eating habits and effective workout routines are the best way to maintain physical fitness, but laughing can also contribute to burning calories. A study by researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center demonstrates that laughing for 10 to 15 minutes a day can effectively help you burn 10 to 40 calories!
While laughing shouldn’t act as a substitute for going to the gym, it is certainly an add-on that will keep you motivated next time you work out. You can even combine the two by doing a group workout with friends. Bring out the yoga mats with a group of fun friends and you’ve got the perfect recipe to burn calories by working out and laughing!
3. Laughing can help reduce stress
Aside from the physical benefits of laughing, laughter also improves mental health and reduces negative emotions. Previous research has shown that there is a link between humor and the level of stress-inducing hormones in our bodies. For instance, a research team in 2006 found that watching humorous videos can decrease the cortisol level in the body by 39%!
Cortisol is a stress hormone that is released into your bloodstream to enhance heart rate and blood pressure when the body feels threatened. While there are many ways to destress after a long day of work or a difficult assignment, taking some time to have a good laugh can also help you relieve your stress.
4. Laughing can boost your happiness
It is probably a no-brainer that laughing can make you happier, but have you ever wondered why? It is because laughter actually stimulates the release of endorphins — also known as the “feel-good hormones”. People also refer to endorphins as your body’s “natural painkillers”, because of their effects on pain relief and create feelings of happiness and well-being.
In addition to being happier, the release of endorphins also promotes social bonding and relationship building. Researchers found that when people laugh together, their endorphin levels increase significantly, indicating that social laughter promotes happiness and brings people closer together.
5 Ways to Laugh More
Now that we’ve discussed some benefits to laughter, let’s explore ways to access this affordable and effective way to cope! Here are some ways to encourage yourself to laugh more:
1. Learn to love your laugh.
Even if sometimes the sound of your laughter or giggle makes you want to curl up in a corner and close your ears, it is important that you know that your laugh is unique, special, and beautiful. Start by smiling more and getting comfortable with the sound of your laughter!
2. Follow funny social media accounts
Even if you’re just casually scrolling through your feed on Instagram, TikTok, or Twitter, an occasional meme here and there will surely brighten up your day.
3. Spend time with pets
If you have a pet at home, you are probably aware of how therapeutic and stress-relieving spending time with them can be. Whether it be snuggle time, playing fetch, going on a walk, or just watching them be silly, you will definitely be rewarded with a bunch of laughter!
If you don’t have a pet, consider volunteering at a local animal shelter. Not only will you be surrounded by many affectionate and furry companions, but you are also bringing laughter and happiness into the lives of the animals and shelter workers as well!
4. Host a game night
What’s a better friend group bonding event than a fun and silly game night? Invite your friends over and have a night filled with party-style games, movies, chatter, and laughter!
5. Watch funny sitcoms or YouTube videos
If you would like some laughter-filled times of solitude, it’s a great idea to snuggle up in your blanket and watch funny videos! The best part is that there will probably be videos that suit every humor preference. From clips of your favorite Friends episode to videos of cat vs. lobster, you will for sure find videos that will crack you up!
Take your time to find and embrace your laughter. Think about moments that make you laugh and smile, relax and enjoy little things that bring you happiness. As we talked about earlier, there are numerous benefits of laughing.
Perhaps we’re biased, but great therapy sessions can include humor during conversations to relax and connect with the client. Schedule an appointment with Rachel here. Lastly, make sure to remind yourself of how you’re improving your physical and mental health just by having a good time the next time you laugh!
Natural Killer Cells. (2020). British Society for Immunology. https://www.immunology.org/public-information/bitesized-immunology/cells/natural-killer-cells
Bennett, M. P., Zeller, J. M., Rosenberg, L., & McCann, J. (2003). The effect of mirthful laughter on stress and natural killer cell activity. Alternative therapies in health and medicine, 9(2), 38–45.
Weeks, A. (2010, November 16). How Many Calories Do You Burn Each Time You Laugh? LIVESTRONG.COM. https://www.livestrong.com/article/308619-how-many-calories-do-you-burn-each-time-you-laugh/
How to laugh away stress. (2008, April 7). Nature. https://www.nature.com/articles/news.2008.741?error=cookies_not_supported&code=f18704d8-9739-4a5f-bfb9-2cc12b58a490
Harvard Health. (2021, July 20). Endorphins: The brain’s natural pain reliever. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/endorphins-the-brains-natural-pain-reliever
Whiteman, H. (2017, June 3). Laughter releases “feel good hormones” to promote social bonding. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/317756#Social-laughter-led-to-increase-in-endorphins
Greenwood, H. (2022, February 8). How Laughter Can Relieve Stress + Ideas to Laugh it Off. University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences. https://www.usa.edu/blog/how-laughter-can-relieve-stress/#:%7E:text=Genuine%20laughter%20can%20decrease%20cortisol,that%20help%20boost%20happiness%20levels.
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