Everyone enjoys a good laugh.
Beyond simple enjoyment, there are numerous physical and psychological health benefits to laughing. And better still, it doesn’t matter what causes you to laugh; the benefits remain.
While the human mind can make a distinction between simulated and spontaneous laughter, the human body cannot1.
You can laugh right now for no reason and improve your health. Funny, isn’t it?
Physical benefits of laughing
In a comprehensive review1 of studies into laughter, scientists summarised the benefits to physical health into seven areas:
- Exercises and relaxes muscles
- Improves respiration
- Stimulates circulation
- Decreases stress hormones
- Increases immune system’s defences
- Elevates pain threshold and tolerance
- Enhances mental functioning.
That’s pretty comprehensive!
Psychological benefits of laughing
Laughter also improves your mental health by acting as a coping mechanism and by enhancing interpersonal relationships. Scientists2 believe that the primary purpose of laughter is to increase the bonds between people, this is particularly true for shared laughter which promotes relationship wellbeing. Surprisingly, it is true regardless of whether laughter is forced or spontaneous.
The psychological benefits of laughing are summarised into eight areas:
- Reduces stress, anxiety, tension and counteracts depression symptoms
- Elevates mood, self-esteem, hope, energy and vigour
- Enhances memory, creative thinking and problem-solving
- Improves interpersonal interaction, relationships, attraction and closeness
- Increases friendliness, helpfulness and builds group identity, solidarity, and cohesiveness
- Promotes psychological well-being
- Improves quality of life and patient care
- Intensifies mirth and is contagious.
Laughter is distracting. It captures your awareness in the same way that sneezing does3. Processing something humorous requires your full attention which creates a complete distraction. Getting a joke does not allow for divided attention. If you are practicing mindfulness, laughing is a good way to do it. Mirthful humour enhances mood, sometimes for an extended period. It also creates an improved outlook and an ability to perceive your own situation from a different frame of reference3.
Around the world, there are laughter clubs that practice what is now becoming known as laughter yoga. You can find one near you by typing “laughter club” and your location into your search engine.
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1. Mora-Ripoll, R. (2011). Potential health benefits of simulated laughter: A narrative review of the literature and recommendations for future research. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 19(3), 170-7. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2011.05.003
2. Gray, A. W., Parkinson, B., & Dunbar, R. I. (2015). Laughter's influence on the intimacy of self-disclosure. Human Nature: An Interdisciplinary Biosocial Perspective, 26(1), 28-43. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12110-015-9225-8
3. Mahony, DL; burroughs, WJ; Lippman, LG; Perceived attributes of health-promoting laughter: a cross-generational comparison; The Journal of Psychology; Mar 2002; 136, 2; Psychology Database pg 171.