Laughter is the best medicine (No joke!)

Three women laugh as they stand next to their bicycles.

It’s no secret that laughing feels good. But did you know it can actually provide stress relief and other health benefits?

Health benefits of laughter

We change physiologically when we laugh.1 Laughter shuts down the release of stress hormones like cortisol. It also triggers the production of feel-good neurochemicals—such as dopamine—which have calming, antianxiety benefits.2 In a large sense, laughter induces physical changes in your body that improve stress symptoms.3

Here are some possible health benefits of laughter:

  • Soothes tension. Laughter can stimulate circulation and muscle relaxation, which can help reduce some physical symptoms of stress.3
  • Improves your immune system. Positive thoughts (the kind you get while laughing) release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more serious illnesses.4
  • Relieves pain. Believe it or not, laughter can cause the body to make its own natural pain relievers that might make you feel better.5
  • Connect with people and deal with difficult situations. Think about a time you went through something hard and someone made a joke to make you feel better. Sometimes it works. Try it. Also, don’t you feel more bonded with friends and family when you share a good laugh?6
  • Stimulates organs and increases endorphins. Laughing boosts your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart and muscles and enhances the endorphins released by your brain. Endorphins trigger a positive feeling in the body.7
  • Improves your mood. Laughter can help lessen depression and anxiety and make you feel better overall.8
  • Burns calories.9
  • Increases blood flow.10

5 Ways to laugh more

Laugh in your everyday situations

Life can be hard, but it can also be funny. Notice humor in your routine. Think funny thoughts. Even practice laughing. It may feel forced at first, but it can quickly become a natural habit.11

Share a laugh with friends or family

Did you know you are 30 times more likely to laugh around other people than when you are by yourself?12 Make time to spend with people who are funny and make you laugh. It’s even better if you get them laughing too. It’s contagious! Laugh with each other. Tell jokes. Share funny stories. Laugh. And laugh more.13

Watch stand-up comedy live, on television or on YouTube

Find comedians who make you laugh. Watch their routines. Tell some of their jokes. Share about the comedian with friends or family, and enjoy watching the comedian together.

Look up jokes online or in books

You can search for anything online, including good jokes. Try typing in “best knock-knock jokes” in your search engine or “best jokes” from a particular comedian. You might even try your local library or bookstore for some laughing material. Have you checked the Sunday “funnies” comic strips? Humor is everywhere.14

Know what isn’t funny

Be responsible with your laughter. Don’t laugh at someone else’s expense. It’s about laughing with them—not at them. Use your best judgment to know when a joke is harmful, hurtful or unfavorable.15

Challenge yourself to laugh more

Laugh the next time someone tells a joke. Think about funny moments in your everyday routine. Set a goal to watch a comedian’s stand-up or spend time with your funny friends or family. Laugh. Isn’t it nice? Practice laughing. Once you get laughing, notice if your muscles feel less tense and if you are more relaxed. That’s what we’re talking about. Don’t you feel better? The chances are, you will. That’s the power of laughter.

Sources:

  1. “Give Your Body a Boost—With Laughter,” WebMD, last accessed May 7, 2019, https://www.webmd.com/balance/features/give-your-body-boost-with-laughter#4., opens new window
  2. “You Asked: Does Laughing Have Real Health Benefits?,” Time, last accessed May 7, 2019, http://time.com/3592134/laughing-health-benefits/., opens new window
  3. “Stress Management,” Mayo Clinic, last accessed May 7, 2019, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456?pg=2., opens new window
  4. “Stress Management”
  5. “You Asked: Does Laughing Have Real Heath Benefits?”
  6. “Stress Management”
  7. “You Asked: Does Laughing Have Real Heath Benefits?”
  8. “Stress Management”
  9. “Give Your Body a Boost—With Laughter”
  10. “Stress Management”
  11. “You Asked: Does Laughing Have Real Heath Benefits?”
  12. “Give Your Body a Boost—With Laughter”
  13. “You Asked: Does Laughing Have Real Health Benefits?”
  14. “You Asked: Does Laughing Have Real Health Benefits?”
  15. “You Asked: Does Laughing Have Real Health Benefits?”