Laughing feels good but did you know that it can actually be good for you? That old folk saying “laughter is the best medicine” may be overstating it a bit but the fact is that laughter DOES have a very real and tangible impact on our health. Remember this the next time you watch your favorite sitcom or stand-up comic and have a great big belly laugh: this is making you healthier, one laugh at a time.
De-stress Through Jests
A good belly laugh does your body good. When you laugh, you enhance your intake of air. This sudden influx of oxygen stimulates your hearts, lungs, and muscles while also increasing the endorphins that are released by your brain. Endorphins are neurotransmitters that act as pain relievers and mood elevators for your body. These chemicals get released during pleasurable and painful activities. The endorphin rush that laughter triggers can contribute a number of positive effects:
- Reduce anxiety, stress, and depression
- Support memory and cognitive function
- Reduce pain and physical discomfort
- Improve your mood and sense of well-being
- Another way of looking at it is that when you laugh you’re triggering your body’s stress response system. You feel a temporary stress response that increases your heart rate and blood pressure but that feeling quickly subsides, which is why we often calm and relaxed after a good laugh.
This is all why watching scary movies can make us feel good: that cycle of activated stress response/alleviate stress is very similar to what you experienced when you’re briefly frightened by a good jump scare.
Enhanced Immune System
Not only does laughter reduce the level of stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine in the body, it also increases the number of antibody-producing cells in our body and enhances the effectiveness of our T cells. T cells are a critical part of our immune system: they help protect the body from infection and may also help fight cancer. A little bit (or a lot!) of laughter every day can go a long way toward helping your immune system run smoothly.
One other important side-effect that comes from laughing that studies have found is that our body produces more melatonin when we laugh at night. Melatonin is the sleep hormone: our bodies produce it in greater quantities when it gets dark out. It’s the chemical that sends a signal to our body to get ready for sleep mode. So if you want a nice, relaxing rest, consider watching a comedy before bedtime.