You’ve heard the old adage, “laughter is the best medicine.” Recent studies show the saying holds merit. We feel better after a hearty laugh, and science supports the physiology behind it. “Laughter yoga” programs are popping up in many communities, and psychologists are offering “laugh therapy” for patients.
Even cancer centers use laughter therapy to help patients with emotional and physical pain. While we don’t know exactly how laughter works in the brain, because humor differs from one person to the next, there are proven health benefits to laughing. Here are five reasons why laughter is good for you.
1. Laughter reduces stress
When you’re in the throes of side-splitting laughter, it’s hard to worry about mortgage payments or your upcoming exam. In fact, laughing helps reduce the production of the stress hormones epinephrine and cortisol. Too much of these hormones can decrease immune function, so that’s why it’s important to keep your stress at a manageable level. Stress release through laughter can help you do just that.
How do you make a tissue dance? Put a little boogie into it.
2. Laughter improves blood pressure
A hearty chuckle can lower your blood pressure and increase circulation in your blood vessels. In a study conducted at the University of Maryland, cardiovascular health was linked to laughter. The study showed that laughter causes the lining of the blood vessels to expand, increasing blood flow to the heart and other organs. This doesn’t mean it’s time to ditch the treadmill, but it does mean laughter is good for the heart and the soul.
A laugh is a smile that bursts. – Mary H. Waldrip
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3. Laughing is good exercise
Being sedentary is no laughing matter, but studies have shown that laughing 100 times has the same exercise benefits as 10 minutes on the rowing machine. Laughing burns calories, too: 10-15 minutes of laughing can burn up to 50 calories. But don’t cancel your gym membership yet – laughter doesn’t replace regular exercise for good health.
The most wasted of all days is one without laughter. – E.E. Cummings
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4. Laughter can reduce pain
Breaking your pinky toe might not elicit waves of giggles, but a good laugh might help reduce the pain. Laughter releases endorphins, chemicals in the brain that trigger the same feelings of pain relief and euphoria as opioids. Research has shown that hospital patients who watch comedy videos (and laugh heartily) use less pain medication. Laughing also releases muscular tension, which can relieve pain, too.
What do you call a teacher who doesn’t pass gas in public? A private tutor.
5. Laughter boosts your immune system
Laughter lowers stress levels, increases oxygen intake and levels off blood pressure: all of which increase immune function. A good laugh can also increase levels of disease-fighting antibodies and immune cells. Studies show that levels of natural killer (NK) cells, which aid in fighting against tumors and infections, are significantly increased in people who laugh often.
Although scientists aren’t exactly sure what makes us laugh, they do know laughing is good for you. So next time you need a little boost, laugh a little. It’ll do you good.
The earth laughs in flowers. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
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