Research has shown that the health benefits of laughter are far-ranging. While more studies need to be done, studies so far have shown that laughter can help relieve pain, bring greater happiness, and even increase immunity. Positive psychology names the propensity for laughter and sense of humor as one of the 24 main signature strengths one can possess, and laughter yoga clubs are springing up across the country. Read on for more findings about the health benefits of laughter, and see how to incorporate more humor and fun into your life.
Stress Management Benefits of Laughter:
- Hormones: Laughter reduces the level of stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline), dopamine and growth hormone. It also increases the level of health-enhancing hormones like endorphins, and neurotransmitters. Laughter increases the number of antibody-producing cells and enhances the effectiveness of T cells. All this means a stronger immune system, as well as fewer physical effects of stress.
- Physical Release: Have you ever felt like you "have to laugh or I'll cry"? Have you experienced the cleansed feeling after a good laugh? Laughter provides a physical and emotional release.
- Internal Workout: A good belly laugh exercises the diaphragm, contracts the abs and even works out the shoulders, leaving muscles more relaxed afterward. It even provides a good workout for the heart.
- Distraction: Laughter brings the focus away from anger, guilt, stress and negative emotions in a more beneficial way than other mere distractions.
- Perspective: Studies show that our response to stressful events can be altered by whether we view something as a 'threat' or a 'challenge'. Humor can give us a more lighthearted perspective and help us view events as 'challenges', thereby making them less threatening and more positive. (For more on changing your perspective, see this article on cognitive reframing.)
- Social Benefits of Laughter: Laughter connects us with others. Just as with smiling and kindness, most people find that laughter is contagious, so if you bring more laughter into your life, you can most likely help others around you to laugh more, and realize these benefits as well. By elevating the mood of those around you, you can reduce their stress levels, and perhaps improve the quality of social interaction you experience with them, reducing your stress level even more!