It may seem strange to you to think that there are health benefits of humor and laughter, but as the old saying goes, “Laughter is the best medicine.” Well, maybe not the best medicine, but it is undoubtedly good for you! While psychologists have determined that humor is a coping mechanism for stress, additional research into the science of humor and laughter has found that they are also good for your overall health and wellbeing.
There are five key health benefits of humor and laughter that we will consider.
Every cell in your body needs oxygen to perform their functions. . As your cells use oxygen, they release carbon dioxide. This carbon dioxide get expelled from the body by your exhale, via your lungs. The better quality breaths you take–inhaling and exhaling- the more oxygen you bring to be circulated throughout your body.
According to the American Lung Association, when you laugh, your lungs expand to push out more carbon dioxide and let more oxygen into them. Deeper breaths mean more oxygen for energy. In a study in the International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, researchers found that laughing reduced trapped carbon dioxide in the lungs of people with pulmonary disease.
People with lung issues often have difficulty expelling carbon dioxide, making their breathing less effective. More oxygen can help you feel more energetic and alert. More energy improves your ability to do things and benefits your daily life.
In a study at the University of Oxford, researchers found that humor and laughter reduce pain sensation. Your body produces endorphins, which are natural chemicals that are responsible for making you feel happy. Endorphins also decrease the pain response.
In this study, 15 minutes of watching a humorous show increased the pain threshold by 10%. Endorphins are produced during physical activity and exercise. An example many people are familiar with is a “runner’s high” or the euphoria an athlete gets while running.
Moreover, scientists believe that laughter is an exercise for the abdominal muscles. When you laugh, you breathe deeper, using your muscles more. This creates endorphins that help you tolerate pain and improve your general wellness.
Improved Immune System Function
Your immune system is an amazing thing. It works to protect you against harmful germs. If you are exposed to germs, your immune system produces white blood cells to fight against germs and illness. Your immune system also creates antibodies, so if you are exposed to that germ again, your body is ready to fight it off.
In the 1970s, research published in the New England Journal of Medicine described how Norman Cousins, a patient with an autoimmune disorder, or dysfunctional immune system, used humor and laughter to treat his condition into remission. Further studies at the Loma Linda University’s Schools of Allied Health have shown that laughter boosts the production of germ-fighting cells and antibodies.
Patch Adams is a medical doctor that embraced humor and the power of the mind in his healing practice–and a great movie to watch! 🙂
Check out this video about the immune system below for a good primer. 🙂
As if that wasn’t enough, researchers also found that laughter increased your cells’ ability to destroy cancer tumors. Humor and laughter are real tools to be used for a happy and healthy life! They improve your immune system function, help your overall well-being, and bring joy to your days!
Fights Anxiety and Depression
Quite often, anxiety and depression are linked to stress levels. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety is the most common mental illness and affects over 40 million adults in the United States. It’s quite likely you know someone who deals with anxiety. I do. 😟
Anxiety and depression are often diagnosed together, with over half the people with one condition also having the other. Anxiety and depression negatively affect a person’s wellbeing and quality of life. It makes sense then, if you can lower the experience of stress, you may help alleviate issues of anxiety and depression to an extent.
Laughter can help! Many studies have shown that humor and laughter relieve stress and decrease the risk for anxiety and depression. In a PLOS ONE study, researchers found that the more a person laughed, the less stress they reported feeling.
Our ability to bond with others is a blessing and is quite often what leads to our deepest satisfaction in life. Believe it or not, humor and laughter can help in this area also!
In a study at the University of North Carolina, researchers found that shared laughter signals people to believe they have the same viewpoint and boosts their sense of connection. According to the American Psychological Association, social isolation, and lack of meaningful bonds with others decrease a person’s well-being by affecting
- Cognitive Function
The health benefits of humor and laughter are real. They help you get more oxygen, reduce pain, improve your immunity, fight anxiety and depression, and create and strengthen bonds. Wow!
Whether or not laughter is the best medicine, it’s definitely good medicine! Find more reasons to laugh it up today!
Laughter and humor play an important role in happiness also. Learn more in the 30 Day Happiness Challenge!