While laughter may not actually be the best medicine, it’s definitely beneficial to your health.
According to Dr. Lee Berk, an associate professor at Loma Linda University in California, laughter may even compare to a proper diet and exercise when it comes to keeping you healthy and disease free.
Dr. Berk says that the mind, immune system, and hormone system are constantly communicating with one another in ways that impact everything from our mood, to our ability to fend off sickness and disease.
Take grief, for example.
“Grief induces stress hormones, which suppress your immune function, which can lead to sickness,” Dr. Berk told Time. “Laughter appears to cause all the reciprocal, or opposite, effects of stress.”
According to Dr. Berk, laughter completely shuts down the release of stress hormones like cortisol. In addition, laughter triggers the production of feel-good neurochemicals like dopamine.
Thanks to its ability to squash stress hormones on the spot, laughter has been linked to health benefits ranging from improved blood flow, to lowering levels of inflammation. Western Kentucky University has also connected a hearty chuckle to an increased number of “killer cells,” which our immune systems deploy to attack disease.
“Many of these same things also happen when you sleep right, eat right, and exercise,” Berk said.
Five Benefits of Laughter
Laughter is a stress-reducer, heart-helper, immunity-booster, and confidence-builder.
- Laughter promotes heart health: Laughter has been proven to reduce blood pressure (more so in women than men) and improve blood flow, which, in turn, reduces your odds of a heart attack or stroke.
- Laughter may help you live longer: According to a study in Norway, people who had a good sense of humor outlived those who didn’t laugh as much. This difference was particularly notable for patients battling cancer.
- Laughter burns calories: Okay, so let’s not go crazy here. While you shouldn’t skip your workouts because of this amazing benefit, laughter could actually offer a small assist to your fitness regimen. According to a study by the International Journal of Obesity, laughing raises the heart rate and caloric expenditure, resulting in about 10 to 40 calories burned over 15 minutes of laughter.
- Laughter stops distressing emotions: You can’t feel angry, anxious, or sad while laughing.
- Laughter relaxes the body: A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress.
Bring Laughter into Your Life
Here’s a few ways to incorporate humor and laughter into your everyday life:
- Smile: It may sound basic, but smiling is the beginning of laughter. And like laughter, smiling is contagious. Practice smiling whenever you see something that pleases you. It doesn’t have to be life-changing – in fact, my morning latte is enough to make me smile.
- Spend time with fun people: “Fun” people are people who laugh at everything – including themselves and life’s many curveballs. These people routinely find humor in everyday events. You’ll soon find that their playful point of view is infectious.
- Count your blessings: Take this literally. Make a list of all of the things you’re thankful for. The simple act of acknowledging the good in your life will distance you from negative thoughts.
- Bring the humor: Run around and ask people, “What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you today? This week? Etc.” It may sound weird, but you’ll probably get a laugh, a few memorable stories, and who knows, you might even make a new friend.
Create an Opportunity to Laugh
If the tips above sound a little mundane, here’s a few alternative options:
- Watch a funny TV show, movie, or YouTube video
- Host a game night with friends
- Go to a “laughter yoga” class
- Do something ridiculous
- Play with a puppy (any pet really, but I recommend a puppy)
- Make time for fun activities like bowling and miniature golf
- Read the funny section of the newspaper
- Invite your friends out to a comedy club
[Feature Image By Uber Images/Shutterstock]