The health benefits of Laughter have been noted throughout time. Some scholars even believe the phrase “laughter is the best form of medicine” stems from Proverbs 17:22: “A Cheerful Heart Is Good Medicine, But A Crushed Spirit Dries Up the Bones”
Over the centuries we have come to understand that laughter isn’t more than just a sign of happiness and goodwill towards others. This essential nutrient has direct connections to lowering blood pressure, reduction in anxiety and other negative emotions, including depression. It also has been shown to strengthen your immune system, calm your stress reactions, and more.
Yet with all these tremendous benefits, laughter is something that is quite deficient in most adults. Several studies suggest that children laugh somewhere between 3-400 times a day, while most adults laugh less than 20 times a day!
Below I’ll review some of the proven health benefits of laughter and I propose you consider adding this essential “vitamin” back into your daily routine with an RDL (recommended daily laugh) of as often and as long as possible.
Laughter and Your Immune System
Laughter is one of the easiest (and cheapest) ways to significantly boost your immune system.
“Laughter boosts the immune system and helps the body fight disease, cancer cells as well as viral and bacterial infections. Being happy is the best cure of all diseases” – Patch Adams, MD
Laughter has been shown to decrease stress hormones and increase immune cells (white blood cells) cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your innate resistance and active ability to fight disease. Laughter has also been shown to trigger the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals.
One study published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine reported an increase in natural killer cells (anti-cancerous), immunoglobulin G (an immune strength marker) and both helpers and cytotoxic T-cells (the primary cells that recognize and initiate inborn immunity against foreign pathogens).
Laughter and Your Heart
Laughing has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke. When you laugh, the blood flow in your body increases and the blood pressure rises (initially); but when you stop laughing, blood pressure drops, many times below its previous baseline point. This is why repeated moments of laughter throughout the day can be an effective means of controlling blood pressure.
Over time you’ll find that laughter gets the heart pumping more too, almost equal to that of cardiovascular exercise. This improves the circulation of blood, oxygen, and nutrients as well as the removal of cellular waste, which also helps other parts of the body. Added oxygen and nutrients make the cells stronger and healthier which can increase their lifespan and effectiveness – which has multiple effects ranging from energy to anti-aging.
Better heart health can also imply reduced risk of blood clots, artery problems, and stroke. Of course, you will need to follow a lifestyle of health, as laughter isn’t going to do everything for your heart, but it’s a great place to start.
Laughter and Stress Hormones
Most people report an overall sense of “release” when laughing – especially after a good prolonged laugh – you know the kind that has your eyes watering. Several studies have noted that if you’re feeling stuck, or in a “gloom/ doom” of depressive/negative thinking the best way to get out is to simply start laughing. This is primarily because laughter reduces stress hormones while elevating critical hormones in your brain for wellbeing (serotonin and dopamine).
Serotonin is the primary hormone responsible for your overall wellbeing and mood. It is also a precursor for melatonin, the primary sleep initiating hormone. When serotonin is low you tend to feel depressed, tired, irritable and worrisome and have difficulty falling or staying asleep. Dopamine is the primary hormone for motivation and reward, i.e. the pleasure and satisfaction response. When dopamine is low you tend to feel unmotivated and apathetic. It can also present as muscle twitching and cramping, generalized aches and pains and stiffness in your joints.
One Harvard study demonstrated a significant elevation in both serotonin and dopamine (and an overall sense of wellbeing) of up to 45 minutes from just a single session of laughter that lasted for 1 min!
Laughter and Pain
If you have a pain that simply won’t respond to anything, give laughter a try. Laughing has been connected to the driest release in your body’s natural painkiller – endorphins. Several studies show the secretion is even as high as when you exercise. Endorphins offer an “opioid-like” effect which not only affects pain but also overall sensations of happiness. Laughter has also been shown to keep the pain from returning, offering a reduction in both frequency and duration of flare-ups.
Laughter and Outlook
Have you ever noticed it’s nearly almost impossible to have a negative thought while laughing and that can lead to an overall sense of happiness and positivity? Happier people tend to be more positive in life and tend to be ones to spread positivity (and laughter) to those around them. It has also been shown that those with a positive outlook on life (especially when faced with a health crisis) tend to have better outcomes.
I think you can agree with me it’s time we start laughing more. Medical science has been confirming what the Bible said thousands of years ago – a cheerful heart (laughter) is good medicine. There are so many health benefits – regardless of if you are in a chronic state of illness or simply wishing to live a long and productive life – LAUGH MORE AND LAUGH OFTEN.