Seven Proven Health Benefits of Laughter
by Diane Berenbaum
Who doesn't love to laugh? A good laugh can change your mood and the direction of your day…not to mention its positive impact on those around you. It's downright contagious. But, is it actually good for you? Absolutely!
Our sense of humor may vary, but laughter does us all a lot of good. And, the research proves it:
- Laughter Burns Calories
This is very good news! Turns out… just 10 to 15 minutes of laughter burns 50 calories, according to Maciej Buchowski, a researcher from Vanderbilt University who measured the amount of calories expended in laughing. And, it's a whole lot easier than aerobics or weight-lifting! William Fry, another pioneer in laughter research, found it took ten minutes on a rowing machine for his heart rate to reach the same level as just one minute of hearty laughter.
- Laughter Improves Sleep and Reduces Pain
The focus on the benefits of laughter began with Norman Cousin's memoir, Anatomy of an Illness. Cousin was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, a painful spine condition. But, watching comedies (e.g. Marx Brothers films and Candid Camera episodes) helped him feel a lot better. He also found that ten minutes of laughter allowed him two hours of pain-free sleep.
- Laughter Soothes Tension and Stress
A really good laugh will initially increase your heart rate and blood pressure. But, then it cools down your stress response, leaving you feeling much more calm and relaxed.
“Laughter appears to cause all the reciprocal, or opposite, effects of stress," according to Dr. Lee Berk, an associate professor at Loma Linda University in California, who has studied the impact of a good laugh for over 30 years. He says that laughter:
• shuts down the release of stress hormones like cortisol
• triggers the production of neurochemicals like dopamine,
which yield calming, anti-anxiety benefits
- Laughter Lowers Blood Sugar Levels
"I believe that if people can get more laughter in their lives, they are a lot better off," according to Psychologist, Steve Wilson, MA, CSP; "They might be healthier too."
He conducted a study of diabetics that proved his hypothesis. He looked at laughter’s effects on blood sugar levels after eating and watching two types of presentations—a tedious lecture and a comedy. After eating, the participants first attended a tedious lecture. The next day, the group ate the same meal and then watched a comedy. After the comedy, their blood sugar levels dropped below what they were after the lecture.
- Laughter Improves your Immune System and Helps Ease Pain
Laughter stimulates the body to release its own natural painkillers—no need for strong or potentially addictive drugs! And, it has been found to ease the pain suffered by those with some muscle disorders.
Equally important, negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body—they can stimulate more stress into your system and decrease your immunity. In contrast, positive thoughts actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and more serious illnesses.
- Laughter Releases Endorphins and Stimulates Organs
Endorphins are released by your brain, every time you laugh. And, when you laugh, many different organs are impacted—that means that you take in more oxygen and key organs such as your heart, lungs and muscles are stimulated. In fact, a University of Maryland study found that a sense of humor can protect against heart disease.
- Laughter Improves your Mood
Many people experience depression, sometimes due to chronic illnesses. Laughter can help lessen your depression and anxiety, and make you feel happier. Think of laughter as ”the yin to stress's yang."
Laughter really is the best medicine. So, find what makes you laugh, and keep on laughing. You'll feel a whole lot better if you do.
References from R. Morgan Griffin and Michael W. Smith, MD and Mayo Clinic; Steve Wilson, M.A., CSP, psychologist, Columbus Ohio; board member of the American Association for Therapeutic Humor, Columbus, Ohio. Robert R. Provine, professor of psychology and neuroscience, University of Maryland; author, Laughter: A Scientific Investigation.
Diane Berenbaum is a long-time contributor and former editor of the MAGIC Service Newsletter. She has more than twenty-five years of experience as a consultant, coach, and facilitator. Diane is the co-author of How to Talk to Customers: Create a Great Impression Every Time with MAGIC® .