Laughter is a natural response to stimuli that’s different for all of us.
While I might giggle at the sight or sound of a seal, there’s no guarantee you will. Likewise, not everyone ends up in a fit of laughter during an unsolicited armpit tickle.
These LOL-inducing visuals, sounds, physical sensations and memories trigger all sorts of emotional and physical changes in our bodies.
And according to Tom, Dick and Harry, laughter is (apparently) “the best medicine”. But how much truth is there behind the saying?
Here are 6 benefits of having a good belly laugh, backed by science.
Laughter improves your mood
Let’s cover the obvious ones first.
Intuitively, you know you’ll probably be in a better mood after watching an episode of Seinfeld (or Friends, depending on what side of the fence you’re on).
That’s because when we laugh, our brains release neurotransmitters called endorphins – natural, feel-good chemicals that promote a general sense of wellbeing.
Laughter can also diffuse anger and shift perspectives, helping you turn a frown upside down.
Laughter reduces stress
There’s no better way to lighten the load of life than a good ol’ laugh.
In a 2003 study, it was found that watching a funny video resulted in decreased levels of stress hormones. The simple act of laughing stimulates a reduction in cortisol and adrenaline, two of the hormones responsible for feelings of stress and anxiety.
So if it’s all a bit too much, stop what you’re doing and make a healthy dose of comedy your top priority.
Laughter boosts immunity
So - let’s go back to the medicine analogy. Does it have any merit?
In a 2015 study, researchers tested the breast milk of postpartum mothers before and after laughter dance routines. They found that the dancing mothers had an increase in immunoglobulin – an infection-fighting antibody that plays an important role in the immune system.
Other studies have found that laughter can also trigger an increase in t-cells and natural killer cells. So when flu season is fast approaching – you’ll know what to do.
Laughter is good for your heart
A healthy bout of the giggles causes your facial, leg, back and abdominal muscles to expand and contract, while giving your diaphragm a good work out, too.
While it probably won’t be enough to replace your regular exercise routine, a 10 minute giggle session can actually burn up to 40 calories!
Laughing is also known to increase blood flow, improve the function of blood vessels and decrease blood pressure.
For 40 patients undergoing hemodialysis, it was found that listening to comic shows twice a week for 8 weeks saw a decrease in blood pressure. You’ve gotta ❤ that!
Laughter can help relieve pain
So now you know that endorphins make you feel happy. But did you know they’re also a natural pain reliever?
While laughter itself won’t take your pain away, it can help relieve it. Basically, the more endorphins in your body, the greater your threshold for pain.
In a study that looked at the effect of laughter on 70 aged care residents, those that participated in humour therapy reported a decrease in pain compared to those that didn’t. They also reported feeling happier and less lonely, suggesting that a wholesome hit of humour can be an effective non-medical intervention.
Laughter can improve brain function
Since the act of laughing gets the respiratory system going, it in turns increases the amount of oxygen flowing to the brain, thus promoting healthier brain function.
And since laughter also increases the release of neurotransmitters, the brain can make connections quicker and comprehend situations at a higher rate.