Health Benefits of Laughter: It’s No Joke

Health Benefits of Laughter: It’s No Joke

Aug 12 2021

August 16 is National Tell a Joke Day, a great time to remind yourself of the many health benefits of laughter.

The last couple of years have been a series of serious events — from global pandemic shutdowns to social justice and political protests nationwide, laughter may have not come easy to all in 2020 and 2021. But have you heard from others that memes and jokes, or a favorite funny show, are all helping them get through the stress? There’s a reason for that. The benefits of laughter are many — including short and long-term health benefits from stress relief to an improved immune system. No joke. Let’s take a look at some of the top ones according to recent studies and behavioral health experts:

Short-term benefits

Whether you’re snickering at a sitcom or chuckling over a cartoon, a good laugh can lead to great short-term health benefits including actual physical changes in your body.

  • Stress relief. Laughter is a great form of immediate stress. So, when you’re feeling overwhelmed quickly look up some jokes and memes or call a funny friend to chat. You’ll notice that laughing can increase and then decrease your heart rate and blood pressure leaving you with a good, relaxed feeling.
  • Stimulate organs. Since laughter leads to an increased intake of oxygen, your heart, lungs and muscles win. Just like breathing deep during aerobic exercise or yoga, the endorphins released by your brain feel good and are good for you.
  • Ease tension. Ever wonder why your shoulders are so tight when you’re stressed? That’s because stress can lead to tightening of muscles — many people feel this in their neck, shoulders and upper back. A good joke or funny movie that has you laughing hard can stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.

Long-term benefits

Laughter can be more than just a quick fix for your health and overall wellbeing. It’s also good for you for the long haul. Several studies show that a regular snickering and giggling can:

  • Relieve pain. A good laugh fest may help ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers.
  • Improve your immune system. Negative thoughts can morph into chemical reactions that affect your body by bringing more stress into your system — potentially decreasing your immunity. But positive thoughts from something funny actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and illnesses.
  • Improve your mood and relationships. It’s not hard to experience depression, sometimes caused by chronic illness. Laughter can help lessen your depression and anxiety and may make you feel happier. Chuckling or joking your way through a rough day can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations. It even helps you connect with other people — leading to improved relationships. There’s a reason we all love to hang out with our funniest friends and family members.
ThinkHealth personal wellness family laughing

How to laugh a little more

Do you feel your world is way too serious and your sense of humor could use a boost? No worries. There are simple, easy ways to increase laughter in your life.

  • Keep humor nearby. Find a few items, whether digital or printed, that make you laugh. It could be a funny photo of your pet or kids, greeting cards, a comic you love or a meme you laugh out loud when you read it. Hang it up in a high traffic home or work area or make it your screensaver on your laptop or phone. Keep your favorite funny movies and TV shows in your favorite lists on Netflix or Hulu. Have a funny book or magazine article nearby. Follow a joke account on social media or watch your favorite comedian do standup online. By having humor always around you, you’ll find it easier to get in a daily dose of laughter.
  • Laugh at yourself. Some of the funniest comedians of all time get the most laughs at their own daily life (ever watch I Love Lucy?). Did you just trip, drop something or forget what you came into the kitchen for? When something is going wrong, try laughing instead of getting frustrated or upset, and even share your tale of woe with others. Even if it feels forced at first, you’ll soon have a new take on life’s little mishaps and enjoy a chuckle that can do your body good.
  • Share a laugh with loved ones. If you have family members or friends who make you laugh, make it a point to spend dedicated time with them. Maybe it’s a text chat or weekly phone call, or just sharing memes with each other. It could even be a contest to see who can find the best Knock-Knock joke or bad “Dad joke.” Whatever your routine, stick to it for consistent giggles.
  • Know your — and others’ laughter limits. Remember not everything is funny. Avoid humor that isn’t appropriate, especially with the heightened health, political and social tensions of 2020. And if someone is offending you in an attempt to make you chuckle, let them know. Laughter should never come at the expensive of others’ feelings. Be kind — it’s better for your overall wellbeing.

Is laughter the best medicine? Maybe not always, but it can certainly help more than it harms. So, put on your favorite sitcom or funny movie, share jokes at the dinner table or look up a daily meme to get you giggling, and relieve some stress. You’ll feel your muscles relax and notice a lightened mood — with short and long-term benefits for your health and wellbeing.

And if the stress is getting to be no laughing matter, try these tips and resources to find help if you need it.

Tags: , ,