There’s an old saying that goes, “laughter is the best medicine.” It’s fun, easy, and brings people closer together. We all know it feels good and helps lighten your mood, but scientific proof points to a number of health benefits backed by research, including alleviating stress and boosting memory.
According to the Harvard Health Letter, laughter has been found to “lower levels of stress hormones, reduce inflammation in the arteries, and increase ‘good’ HDL cholesterol.” In addition, another study by researchers from Loma Linda University found how humor and laugher has clinical benefits to the brain, especially for older adults who experience age-associated memory gaps.
Researchers from the American Heart Association discovered that laughter is not just contagious—the effects on the body can actually last up to 24 hours. This is a great reason to laugh every single day. “Once you start laughing, it forces you to feel better,” said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, D.O., a cardiologist and director of women and heart disease at New York City’s Lenox Hill Hospital, and also a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women movement.
Laughter’s Health Benefits
Some of laughter’s obvious benefits include lessening symptoms of stress, anger, anxiety, and depression – things that increase a person’s chances of developing heart problems. However, there are less obvious benefits that help improve the heart and overall health, including the following:
- Reduces artery inflammation. A University of Maryland Medical Center study found that laughter helps reduce inflammation in arteries by releasing nitric oxide, thus dilating the inner lining of blood vessels and improving blood flow. Another University of Texas at Austin study found immediate improvement in the arteries of adults who watched a funny video.
- Lowers stress hormones. Research proves how laugher lowers cortisol and epinephrine levels – the stress hormones that cause blood vessels to constrict. Even just the mere act of smiling increases dopamine, the “happy hormone,” so just imagine what a full-on laugh can do! Laugher also triggers the release of endorphins, allowing you to emotionally relax more.
- Exercises the heart. Laugher gets your heart pumping. It’s a mild form of exercise, burning the same amount of calories as walking slowly or moderately.
- Improves the immune system. Laughing helps increase the number of T-cells, responsible for producing antibodies.
- Increases good cholesterol. A study of patients with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes found that laughter increases “good cholesterol” (high-density lipoprotein or LDL) levels by as much as 26% after they spent about 30 minutes a day laughing.
- Combats depression. A number of studies found that laughter helps combat depression and improves the mood.
- Relieves pain felt. While people who laugh don’t necessarily experience less pain, the perceived level of it helps a person overcome discomfort much more easily.
While these studies prove laughter helps improve the body’s health and overall disposition, it should be noted that it’s still a long way from what medicine and a good diet can contribute. Think of laugher as a supplement that helps a healthy diet become more effective, rather than your only medicine to a healthy heart. Enjoy the laughter and the amazing feeling it gives you.
Types of Laughter
Laughing is one of the easiest, most natural things a person can do. Did you know there are different ways of laughing?
- belly laugh or guffaw – a burst of deep loud hearty laughter
- bray – to laugh loudly and harshly, similar to how donkeys sound
- break up – to laugh unrestrainedly
- cachinnation – loud, convulsive laughter
- cackle – a loud laugh, similar to how a hen sounds laying an egg
- chortle or chuckle – a soft and partly suppressed laugh
- giggle – a nervous or foolish laugh
- haw-haw, hee-haw, or horselaugh – a loud laugh similar to a horse’s neighing sound
- howl or roar – to laugh unrestrainedly and heartily
- snicker or snort – to laugh disrespectfully
- titter – a nervous yet restrained laugh
Easy Ways to Add More Joy and Laughter
Not all people are the same – a lot find laughter completely natural, while others may find it slightly challenging. If you want to add more joy and laughter to your life, there are a number of ways to do so, and they’re all pretty easy!
- Play with a pet. The presence of a pet, especially furry house pets like dogs and cats, help improve overall heart health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as the National Institute of Health (NIH) both conducted studies and found that pet owners experience lower blood pressure and lowered levels of both cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Take a trip down memory lane. This can be done alone or with friends and loved ones, either through reminiscing via photos and videos, or through enjoyable conversation about good memories.
- Have a game night. Engaging in interesting games not only help a person socialize, but also challenges the brain. In addition, the fun involved allows people to laugh and lighten up.
- Find something humorous to do or watch. There are plenty of comedy movies, TV shows, and even live stand-up comedy shows to watch. There are books and podcasts to choose from as well.
- Goof around with a friend. Hang out with a silly friend and do lighthearted things such as going to the amusement park, or whatever it is that brings both of you joy. Spend more time with people who have fun and exude positivity.
- Learn “laughing yoga.” Attend a laughter yoga class which teaches how to laugh and practice laughing throughout the day.
- Be silly as much as possible, as long as it’s appropriate. Look for humor in everything, even in bad situations, as long as it is suitable and not disrespectful. Laughing during hurtful situations or at the expense of others is inappropriate. Laugh with – not at – people.
Laughter is a simple yet powerful tool that can instantly add more feelings of joy. Commit to adding more joy to your life and prioritize having fun. Not only will it bring you a positive feeling, but also spreads good vibes to others. It’s an attractive, positive trait that can go a long way, not just for yourself but for the people around you as well!