Is Laughter Really The Best Medicine?

Mental Health

The saying that laughter is the best medicine comes from the old testament. Not only is this one of the oldest sayings in the English language, but it has become one of the tritest statements as well.

Ironically, we take laughter very seriously as a culture. Not only is laughter therapy well-established, but there are classification systems for laughing according to intensity, overtness, ‘snortiness’, and emotion. This attitude should be evident from the fact that we even have a scale for the “heartiness”.

Clearly, laughter is serious business – in this article you’re going to learn all about it, and hopefully, you’ll find reason to laugh a little more today.

Laughter Reduces Stress

two parents and little girl engaged in laughterYou probably know someone who never laughs and who always seems to be stressed (if not, it’s probably you). The connection between the two runs deeper than you might think. Laughing is a great way to relieve stress and staypositive when life is getting you down. Adding more humor to your day will regulate your mental health and make you happier as well.

Laughing is a great way to improve stress-resilience: if you’re able to spend some time every day enjoying humor, your neuroticism (vulnerability to negative emotions) will decrease. This might mean listening to your favorite comedian on your commute (especially if you work tough hours) or simply spending more time with the friends and co-workers who know how to make you laugh so hard you snort.

Laughing can help you distance yourself from pain and stress. Laughter and active relaxation techniques are simple ways to reduce the experience of pain or the amount that you let it affect your life, even if it doesn’t solve the problem. It also releases endorphins in the brain, natural pain-killers that have the convenient effect of elevating mood and making you feel like life is going well.

It Improves Health

Less stress means a stronger immune system. When you are stressed, your body releases cortisol which causes a short-term boost in the immune system but eventually causes long-term suppression of the same. By dedicating some time to laughing and relaxing, you’re able to reduce your cortisol concentration and boost your long-term health.

two pretty girls smiling with laughterLaughter also contributes to better heart health. When you laugh, your body is performing a lot of activity (though only enough to burn around 40 calories a day) and your circulation improves. This means that those who laugh heartily often are likely to be leaner and healthier than the office miser who never cracks a smile. It also means, however, that fake laughing has no benefits.

Laughter Makes You More Attractive

Laughing may not be the best medicine for your face, but it definitely helps! Scientific evidence suggests that people perceive those who smile as friendlier and more approachable. People also find those who smile often more attractive than their grumpy counterparts. This won’t solve all of your problems, but it’s never a bad thing to be better looking.

Laughing isn’t only important for being attractive (though if you’re not convinced that you need more of it, we’re not sure what will change your mind), it plays an important role in social interactions. Laughing is a great way of breaking tension and making yourself and others feel at ease. Think about the last time you were in an awkward conversation and the last time you  made an ‘awkward laugh’ – this only works because humans are much less anxious around people who laugh more. Those who laugh are more easy to talk to because they don’t take things too seriously all the time and are more likely to be approachable and kind.

Laughing is also contagious when it’s sincere: if you’re ever in a fit of genuine, hearty laughter the people around you are likely to begin laughing along with you. Being a very selfless and generous person, you will bring happiness to the lives of others simply by enjoying yourself and they will experience the same physical and psychological benefits that we described above.

It Reduces Risk of Death

All though you will eventually still die at some point, those who laugh more are likely to live longer. Not only is existence more tolerable or enjoyable when its filled with good humor (or bad humor, if that’s your thing), but it is also likely to be longer and healthier. The scientific studies surrounding the health benefits of laughter aren’t definitive but they suggest that laughing is a genuine benefit to health.

However, there are also dangers with laughter. While we don’t suspect that it’ll be a real problem for many of us, laughing too much is linked to cataplexy – weakness of the muscles and short-term loss of physical control of the body. This is only a real problem for those who are already suffering from more-serious conditions, but we don’t want to suggest that laughing improves health and have readers laugh themselves into poor health.

Laughing may not be the best medicine for serious medical conditions like cancer or liver failure, but it is definitely a great cure for some of the smaller, annoying problems in life. It can improve your health and mood, make you more attractive, less socially-anxious, more popular, more approachable, more enjoyable to be around, and it can improve your life expectancy.

That’s a pretty impressive list! If you can improve each of these life conditions just a little bit with 10 to 15 minutes of comedy a day, whether this comes from co-workers, family, friends, or actual comedians, it would be a great investment of your time.

Looking for other simple ways to relieve stress? Check out our article on how to reduce stress in just 20 minutes a day.

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