The Physical, Social and Mental Benefits of Laughter
It sure feels good to laugh, but have you ever wondered why? You probably know already that laughing releases endorphins that make you feel happy, but there are even more physical effects and mental benefits that come from life’s best natural medicine. So what are the physical and mental benefits of laughter?
The health benefits of laughter
Laughing releases feel-good endorphins which can interact with opioid receptors in the brain which not only make you feel happy but can reduce feelings of pain. While laughing is boosting your mood up, it’s also reducing the hormones that can make you feel stressed, like cortisol and epinephrine.
At the hormonal level, laughter can change (at least temporarily) how your brain works. These lowered stress hormones and heightened endorphins have roll-on effects on the rest of your body and your headspace. So, we know laughing can:
- Increase feel-good hormones
- Reduce stress hormones
- Reduce pain and discomfort
- Boost your mood
Physical benefits of laughing
Your brain feels great when you laugh, but how else is it positively affecting your body? Some physical benefits of laughter are:
- Strengthened your immune system
- Lowered blood pressure
- Relaxed muscles
- Increased blood flow (good for heart health)
- Burns calories (a minimal amount, but the more you laugh, the more you burn)
Mental benefits of laughter
With boosted mood can come better mental health! In fact, there are studies that suggest laughter can have therapeutic benefits that can combat depression and improve well-being. More mental benefits of laughing can include:
- Better resilience. Seeing the humour in life’s challenges can help you face adversity
- A more positive outlook. If you can laugh things off, you may feel less overwhelmed.
- Greater feelings of calm and joy.
The mental, emotional and social positives of keeping a positive outlook on life, seeking joy and laughing a lot all play off one another. Being mentally healthy can help you maintain a rich social life, and social connections improve your mental health, which can help improve your emotional well-being.
Social benefits of laughter
Laughter really is contagious! You're more likely to laugh out loud around people than if you’re alone, and sharing a laugh with someone can help deepen your bond with them. In fact, romantic couples that laugh together may have a higher chance of staying together. Socially, laughter can help to:
- Soften or resolve conflict
- Promote feelings of connection or improve teamwork
- Attract people to one another
- Incentivise you to seek out those who make you laugh
So understanding that laughter can improve your social, mental and physical health, how do you keep it up without forcing it?
Tips for including laughter in your life
Did you know that faking it till you make it can actually work when it comes to smiling and laughing? The muscle memory of smiling can trigger the release of feel-good hormones, which can help you feel happier even if it started from a forced smile. The same can work with laughing, or maybe the silliness of faking a laugh will actually make you laugh! Besides pretending, some other ways to work laughter into your life include:
- Seeking out people who make you laugh and putting effort into spending time together.
- Watching a TV show or movie that you find funny. Watching it with someone might make you laugh out loud more!
- Spend time with animals.
- Organise a fun activity like games night, karaoke, bowling or something that gets people laughing.
- Go to or watch a comedy show.
A Norwegian study suggests that maintaining a sense of humour and laughing a lot may allow you a longer and happier life. Time spent seeking humour and happiness is time well spent!
What to do when laughs are feeling few and far between
If you’ve been feeling sad, stressed or distracted for a while and you’ve noticed you’re laughing less or feeling disinterested in things you used to enjoy, you may benefit from speaking with a professional. Other ways to take care of yourself while you’re feeling blue can include:
- Speaking with loved ones about your change in mood or outlook. Connecting with them might lighten the load of how you’ve been feeling, and you may even enjoy some laughter with them once you take the time to engage.
- Taking RESCUE Remedy® for the emotional support from flower essences.
- Journaling through your feelings. Writing something down can help stop it from bouncing around your head.
- Focusing on exercise to get you out of your head.
- Trying mindfulness to help you find your emotional centre (and maybe even get IN your head to shed light on how you’re feeling).