Everyone has heard the phrase, “Laughter is the best medicine.” But is this statement really true? With April designated as National Humor Month, we look at the benefits of a cheerier outlook and if it really does make for good medicine.
What exactly happens physically when we laugh? Some researchers believe the effects of laugher and exercise is very similar, from stretching muscles throughout your face and body to increasing your breathing, which sends more oxygen and nutrients into your blood stream. Additionally, laughter increases the hormones beta-endorphins (which elevate mood) and human growth hormone (which boosts immunity) while reducing three stress hormones – cortisol, epinephrine, and dopac. High levels of these three hormones have been linked to compromised immune systems.
So what are some other effects of laughter? Here are a few:
- Fights depression
- Increases respiration
- Relaxes muscles
- Reduces pain
- Lowers blood pressure
- Improves stamina
Just because you have a laughter-filled life, however, does not mean you should abandon a healthy diet and exercise regime. In fact, some researchers are divided on how laughter is so beneficial. While laughter certainly has an effect on the physical body, as mentioned above, perhaps it is the why behind the laughter that is the most important. For example, if someone is sharing a laugh with family or friends, it means they are in contact with other human beings that they love and with whom they share a close bond. Some researchers believe that it is these relationships that lead to better or improved health, and not the laughter itself.
Either way, who really needs a reason to laugh? So even if laughter cannot actually improve your physical health, at the very least it does improve your quality of life, which is reason enough for most people!