You’ve heard that laughter is the best medicine, and you already know that a good laugh makes you feel great. But did you know that many health professionals believe that laughter has actual health benefits too?
Laughter has been linked to a number of health improvements, including benefits for the immune system, memory, stress relief and even sleep. In this article, we will highlight the best benefits to your health, which you can achieve just by having fun and laughing out loud!
Too many negative thoughts and stress can have long-term detrimental effects on your immune system, leaving you vulnerable to sickness and other health problems.
Laughter seems to fight stress by releasing the natural chemical dopamine and neuropeptides such as endorphins, keeping your immune system strong and your body healthy.
Additionally, laughter can even relieve pain by causing the body to make natural painkillers; while also fighting depression and anxiety by improving your mood and helping you connect with others.
Boost Cardiovascular Health
The benefits of regular exercise are integral to health and have been proven medically again and again. In many ways, laughter can offer similar benefits to a mild workout.
As Steve Wilson, MA, CSP, a psychologist and laugh therapist explained, the effects of laughter and exercise are very similar: they both stretch muscles in the body and face, and raise your blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rate.
“Combining laughter and movement, like waving your arms, is a great way to boost your heart rate,” Wilson said.
That increased oxygen flow from the extra breathing and circulation stimulates your organs and muscles, while reducing inflammation in the body.
Memory & Recall
To understand more about the health benefits of laughter, Time talked to Dr. Lee Berk, an associate professor at Loma Linda University in California. He has studied how laughter affects the brain and body for years. He said that laughter “causes a change in the way your brain’s many neurons communicate with one another.”
From the article:
“Specifically, laughter seems to induce “gamma” frequencies—the type of brain waves observed among experienced meditators. These gamma waves improve the “synchronization” of your neuronal activity, which bolsters recall and memory, Berk says.”
It’s already been proven that exercise and less stress lead to better sleep, but perhaps laughter itself can lead to sleeping better (which itself can also have a host of health benefits). Learn about the story of Norman Cousins, who said in his memoir that just 10 minutes of laughter allowed him two hours of pain-free sleep from his painful spine condition.
Lower Blood Sugar
One Japanese study found that laughter lowered blood sugar for people with type 2 diabetes. They tested the effect of laughter by comparing blood sugar levels after a tedious lecture compared to a comedy movie.
The researchers hypothesized that “chemical messengers made during laughter may help the body compensate for the disease.” However, laughter even had a similar blood sugar lowering effect on those without the medical condition.
Laugh Your Way To Good Health
It’s difficult to prove that the health benefits associated with laughter are due solely to the act of laughing and not to the many possible common laughter triggers. For example, social activities and companionship, which have already been shown to benefit health, are common laughter triggers. So is having a more positive, easygoing outlook on life and good quality relationships.
But although laughter’s link to health benefits hasn’t been definitively proven, laughter certainly can’t hurt – so remember to relax and let loose with some laughter regularly.