Laughter and Health

Laughter and Health

Information Resources

By Evelyn Cunico, M.A., M.S.

Posted February 25, 2014

A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.
Proverbs 17: [22]

Although scientific evidence does not yet support laughter as an effective treatment for disease, researchers have shown that laughter has many physical, emotional, and social benefits.

Physical Benefits of Laughter

  • Laughter can be aerobic. As you laugh, muscles contract and then relax. Blood pressure drops. Breathing becomes deeper.

  • A hearty laugh can give your abdomen, diaphragm, heart, lungs, and thorax a good workout.

  • Laughter causes the release of endorphins, which are special neurotransmitter substances in the brain that help control pain.

Emotional Benefits of Laughter

  • Laughter can sweep away stored negative emotions, such as anger, fear, and sadness.

  • Laughter can relieve stress, giving you a new perspective and helping you to renew your spirits.

  • Laughter strengthens your resilience. Laughing can remind you that no one is perfect. Even when you do something silly, laughter can help you to bounce back into a positive mood.

Social Benefits of Laughter

  • Laughter enhances personal relationships. Laughter boosts morale, engenders closeness between mates, and promotes feelings of self-worth.

  • Laughter diffuses conflict in working relationships. You can use laughter to develop a camaraderie and power in difficult situations.

  • Sharing laughter with someone you trust or respect provides hope, and can lead to new ways of viewing and managing life’s everyday challenges.

Four Tips for Healthy Laughter

  • Smile at people when you walk for exercise or pleasure, to show you are friendly and accepting of them, whoever they are. Smiling demonstrates mutual respect and can spark laughter.

  • Let children teach you. As children play, they are completely focused on laughing, as their kite takes flight, or as their pet dog jumps into the air for tennis-ball fetch. Learn to focus on playful thoughts, which lead to laughter.

  • Seek out light-hearted persons to share mutually enjoyable activities. Fun leads to laughter and to fresh ways of seeing the world around you.

  • Remind yourself that, where your health is concerned, laughter is contagious!

References

American Cancer Society. “Humor Therapy.”
(accessed 02-22-14)

Beckman, H., N. Regier, and J. Young. “Effect of Personal Workplace Laughter Groups on Personal Efficacy Beliefs.” The Journal of Primary Prevention 28(2) (March 2007):167-82. [published online 2007 March 1)
(abstract accessed 02-24-14)

Bennett, Mary Payne, and Cecile A. Lengacher. “Humor and Laughter May Influence Health: I. History and Background.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 3(1) (March 2006):61-63. [published online 2006 January 16]

Bennett, Mary Payne, and Cecile A. Lengacher. “Humor and Laughter May Influence Health: II. Complementary Therapies and Humor in a Clinical Population.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 3(2) (June 2006):187-190. [published online 2006 April 24]
(accessed 02-20-14)

Bennett, Mary Payne, and Cecile Lengacher. “Humor and Laughter May Influence Health: III. Laughter and Health Outcomes.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 5(1) (March 2008):37-40. [published online 2007 May 17]
(accessed 02-24-14)

Bennett, Mary Payne, and Cecile Lengacher. “Humor and Laughter May Influence Health: IV. Humor and Immune Function.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 6(2) (June 2009):159-164. [published online 2007 December 5]
(accessed 02-24-14)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “CDC-BAM, Your Life, Feeling Frazzled?” “Feelin’ Frazzled…”
(accessed 02-22-14)

HelpGuide. “Laughter is the Best Medicine: The Health Benefits of Humor.”
(accessed 02-20-14)

HowStuffWorks “Laughter and Health.” “How Laughter Works.” Posted by Marshall Brain. (01 April 2000)
(accessed 02-23-14)

National Council of Churches of Christ in America. Bible. Revised Standard Version.
University of Pennsylvania Center for Computer Analysis of Texts (CCAT)
(accessed 02-23-14)

Seaward, B.L. “Humor’s Healing Potential.” Health Progress: Official Journal of the Catholic Health Association of the United States 73(3) (April 1992):66-70.
(abstract accessed 02-20-14)

Strickland, D. “Seriously, Laughter Matters.” Today’s OR Nurse 15(6) (Nov-Dec 1993):19-24.
(abstract accessed 02-20-14)

A disclaimer: the information presented in this blog should not replace the medical advice of your physician. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any disease without first consulting with your physician or other health care provider.

Advertisements