Can a laugh a day keep the doctor away?
They say laughter is the best medicine, but did you know there are actual documented health benefits that come along with those chuckles?
While studies on the benefits of laughter aren’t entirely conclusive due to the nature of the topic and difficulties with controls, among other things, the research on the power of laughter indicates that humor heals.
But exactly what are the health benefits of laughter? From a quick mental boost to longer lasting chemical changes, here are a few of the perks you’ll receive from a prescription for your funny bone.
1. Laughter Is a Mini Workout
Not only do those deep belly laughs work your abdominal muscles and diaphragm, but they also release the same feel-good endorphins a good workout will give you. Laugh until it hurts and save yourself the sit-ups!
While you’re working that core, you’ll be sucking in more oxygen, giving your heart and lungs a boost.
Multiple studies show that the oxygen boosts your body receives while laughing leads to increased blood flow—good news for your cardiovascular health.
You’ll also burn a few calories over those jokes at lunch; a 10-15-minute laugh session can torch up to 50 calories (We here at The Podcast of No Return tend to burn twice that in an average recording session). Sure, you’ll burn a few more on a treadmill, but it won’t be near as fun and every little bit counts!
2. Your Hormones Love a Good Laugh
Hormone health is no laughing matter. Responsible for many of your body’s mental, emotional and physical tasks, a hit to the hormones can have serious negative effects.
Besides releasing those feel-good hormones (you have 11 different ones), laughter suppresses the bad boys that can wreak havoc like cortisol and adrenaline.
Involved in regulatory processes like your metabolism, elevated levels of these hormones have far-reaching effects that aren’t so funny.
Besides the happy makers like serotonin and endorphins, you’ll also get a dose of hormones that act as natural opiates—meaning natural pain management.
3. Laughter Takes Away the Stress
Speaking of stress hormones, a good dose of laughter can mitigate the damage caused to your emotional, mental and physical state from daily stress.
In fact, a bout of rolling laughter will first elevate your heart rate and trigger a stress response, before quickly relaxing and lowering it. The quick change brings a welcome calming response to your system.
Stress is well documented in its links to a variety of health issues, including serious killers like heart disease and diabetes. Unfortunately, most of us lead lives ripe with it, like mortgage payments and job promotions and saving for junior’s college fund.
So, the next time you feel those stress levels rising, tune in to a funny podcast and watch those bad vibes roll right out of you with the laughter.
4. The Family That Laughs Together Stays Together
Much like food and alcohol, there’s a social and communal aspect to laughter, and as the saying goes, it’s absolutely contagious.
Those laughs you share around the water cooler every day do more than momentarily relieve the boredom of staff meetings.
You’re growing connections, helping relieve stress in yourself and others, and giving everyone involved a chemical boost to help them navigate the day-to-day.
Sharing a good joke with family or friends creates bonds. The exchange releases those same feel-good hormones in others, and that feeling is linked to the interaction with you.
We gravitate toward what makes us feel good. If you’re always in the center of the laughter, people will naturally be attracted to your happy vibes and you’ll likely find you’re on everyone’s invite list.
5. Laughter is the Best Medicine for Your Immune System
Our immune response is directly linked to the health of the rest of our body.
Studies show increased levels of stress hormones lead to a decrease in our immunity. Since laughter releases the feel goods and takes away the stress, your immune system gets a little efficiency boost.
Several studies have shown that using humor boosts the defense cells that fight our battles and keep us healthy. So not only will you be less stressed and the life of the party, you’ll keep the germs at bay!
6. You’ll Only Cry From Laughing
Think of the last time you laughed so hard you cried. You know, the offhand joke that made you spit out your margarita and laugh so deep you couldn’t breathe?
It sure beats the crying that comes from thinking about your last breakup.
Because of the myriad of variables, studies can’t conclusively prove that depression and laughter are linked, but as Legally Blonde taught us, endorphins make you happy, and happy people just don’t kill their husbands. Or succumb to the weepies in the middle of the night.
7. Chronic Laughter = Chronic Positive Outlook
We train our brain based on our responses to external stimuli.
If you’re a person who looks on the positive side and finds a way to laugh through the hard stuff, you’re teaching your brain to look on the bright side, regardless of circumstance.
Over time, you’ll find that your go-to response in moments of stress is to find the silver lining. The truth is that there’s some shred of good in every situation, some lesson we can take away from even the worst encounters, even if it’s just to be thankful that it’s over.
The Laughter Prescription
What did the Buddhist monk say to the hot dog vendor?
“Make me one with everything.”
(Incidentally, this joke was told by a reporter to the Dalai Lama, and the Dalai Lama didn’t get it. I guess he’s got enough good body chemistry going on that he didn’t need the boost.)
If laughter is the best medicine, how can you ensure more of it in your life?
You don’t have to wait for a laugh to come along—you can add it to your daily routine on purpose!
- Buy a joke a day calendar and share it with coworkers
- Smile more – it might lead to a laugh
- Add a comedian to your watch list
- Tune in to a funny podcast (we have a certain suggestion if you can’t find one)
- Adopt a pet, or a funny friend—they’ll both add humor
We become what we repeatedly do, so start learning to turn that frown upside down and tap into the healing power of humor!