Laugh more often, it’s good for your heart.
Journalist and author Norman Cousins, born in 1915, was one of the first people to suggest laughter’s potential therapeutic benefits when he was diagnosed with a rare disease in 1964 and given only a few months to live. He purposefully searched for ways to laugh and enjoy life—for another 26 years!
Humor works because it gives us a different perspective on our problems (and the world’s problems). When we laugh, we take a step back from our immediate circumstances, and this gives us a greater sense of control over our lives.
Laughter also triggers the release of endorphins (your body’s natural feel-good chemicals). When endorphins flood your body, they promote a sense of calm and contentment and can even temporarily relieve pain.
But laughter goes far beyond these benefits. Studies have shown that laughter:
- Strengthens your immune system: Immune molecules called immunoglobulin A (IgA) increased in concentration significantly after participants viewed funny videos.[i] T-cells, which help to fight infections, were also increased after laughter.[ii]
- Reduces stress: When you laugh, you are stressing your body. When the joke is over, this activates a relaxation mode and you feel calmer. Not only does this help you feel tranquil, but it drops stress hormones and improves mood.[iii]
- Increases blood flow: Laughter causes the release of beta-endorphins, which leads to the release of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide dilates (relaxes) blood vessels.[iv] Laughing is like a mini cardio-workout—it stimulates your whole body and increases blood flow, bringing much-needed nutrients and oxygen to the whole body.
When you combine the above, you have a recipe for good heart health. Now that you know laughter is the best medicine, how do you do it more?
Here are a few suggestions:
- Play with a pet: Spending time with a pet can lift your mood. Having a pet may motivate you to exercise more or connect with others with a similar interest. Take your dog for a walk, or meet up with other owners at the dog park.
- Get a dose of humor: Stream a comedy instead of a drama; read a funny story; go to a comedy club; or schedule a game night with family and friends. Look for ways to find laughter at work and at home. Most people will join you if you tell them your goal is to make life more fun and enjoyable.
- Remind yourself: Follow your favorite comedians on social media—whether it’s funny videos, or the latest meme, anything that makes you smile is beneficial.
- Seek out new resources: The HUMOR Project, Inc., and The Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor (AATH) are organizations working to increase humor in our lives for our better health.
Laughing brings people together and offers great benefits for your mental and physical health. It really is just what the doctor ordered.
[i] Dillon KM, Minchoff B, Baker KH. Positive emotional states and enhancement of the immune system. The International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine. 1986 Mar;15(1):13-8.
[ii] Berk L. Eustress of mirthful laughter modifies natural killer cell activity. Clinical Research 1989;37(ll5).
[iii] Bennett MP, Zeller JM, Rosenberg L, McCann J. The effect of mirthful laughter on stress and natural killer cell activity. Alternative therapies in health and medicine. 2003 Mar 1;9(2):38.