6 Health Benefits Of Laughter That Are Backed By Experts, So You Know They're No Joke
You're probably familiar with the saying "laughter is the best medicine." But what you might not realize is that laughter is quite literally good medicine. Pull up your favorite episode of The Office or add the newest episode of your favorite funny podcast to your listening queue, because the health benefits of laughter are no laughing matter, if you know what I mean. Whether your funny bone is tickled by dumb dad jokes or you're more of a sarcastic humor kind of person, chuckling is one sure way to boost your health — both physically and mentally.
Unlike actual medicine, though, there's no designated amount of laughter to lead to health benefits. While you should try to laugh a little bit each day, "the duration of the laugh is not as important as the reason behind it," says Lee Berk, DrPH, a humor and laughter researcher at Loma Linda University. "Mirthful laughter, as opposed to nervous or embarrassed laughter, promotes the good HDL cholesterol and has a cascade of beneficial physiological changes conducive for happiness," he tells Elite Daily in an email. "Laugh as often and as much as you need until you feel 'good.'"
Here are a few of the ways that a deep belly laugh can do wonders for your entire body.
It improves your relationships
Whenever you and a group of your friends get together, you probably spend some of your time laughing. According to Tami Sasson, a mental health therapist and wellness coach based in NYC, this kind of connection can really help forge your emotional bond with each other. "Laughter can connect us with others, which also leads to better mental health," she tells Elite Daily. "When we share joy and connection with others we feel better."
A fit of giggles can help you feel more chill
If you're feeling especially anxious, you might want to try watching a video of one of your favorite comic's stand-up routines, because a fit of giggles can make a big difference in your brain. "Laughter triggers the production of key neurochemicals like dopamine, which produce calming, anti-anxiety benefits as well as provide us with pleasure and reward," explains Dr. Berk.
Laughing might be able to protect you from getting sick
Laughter's feel-good benefits aren't only for your mental health. A round of guffaws can quite literally improve your physical health, according to Dr. Berk. "Just like stress can suppress your immune system and lead to sickness, laughter can have the opposite effect," he says, "by improving and enhancing immune system components and blood flow so you are more 'sickness'-resistant."
It'll probably keep your heart healthy
"Laughter is also known for lowering blood pressure and improving cardiovascular health in the body," says Jessica Sherman, MA, LPC, a licensed clinical mental health therapist. During one study conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland Medical Center, for example, participants were split into two groups — one who watched clips from Saving Private Ryan, while the others watched parts of There's Something About Mary. Those who watched the funny movie showed decreases in blood vessel restriction and increases in circulation, while the opposite was true for the other group.
Laughter helps you manage pain
Dr. Lauren Holleb, an assistant professor of psychology at Husson University and licensed psychologist, says that laughing can genuinely reduce your physical pain. "[Laughter] increases levels of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals, and can temporarily relieve pain," she tells Elite Daily. Giggling can also have less temporary effects, such as elevating your pain tolerance and threshold.
It'll help you appreciate the best parts of your life
Everyone has days when it just seems like nothing's going your way, but reading a couple of good jokes might be a way to refocus on the positive aspects of your life, suggests Tina Tessina, PhD, psychotherapist and author of the book Dr. Romance's Guide to Finding Love Today.
"Laughter reminds you about how good life can be," she tells Elite Daily in an email. "Shared laughter also syncs up your emotional rhythms, which makes it easier for you and others to feel connected and intimate with each other," she says. "It provides balance to the seriousness of life and work."