It’s been said that laughter is the best medicine. In fact, turning that frown upside down really does do wonders for us, emotionally and physically. Add to that the fact that laughter is free, painless and not controversial, and it’s hard to not smile. Some professionals have even suggested that forcing a smile on our face, even if it’s not genuine, can trigger a mood-elevating response in our brains. The importance of smiling to reduce stress and improve health has become so popular that many wellness centers now offer “laughter yoga” classes.
Neuroscientist Robert Provine, Ph.D. observed thousands of situations involving laughter in his daily life and reports his findings in the book, Laughter: A Scientific Investigation (affiliate link).
Here’s a look at his conclusions as well as some insight from other professionals. Laughter can help:
1. Increase Your Libido
Provine explains that laughter plays a role in the mating process, saying that a laugh can lessen anxiety in certain situations and therefore pave the way to an intimate bond. As for women who cover their mouth and barely make a noise while they laugh? Apparently, it’s a bit of a mood killer. According to Provine, he observed that most men preferred women who laughed heartily in front of them. He also notes that tickling, which elicits laughter, often triggers sexual excitement in adults.
2. Boost Lung Power
According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter (which is aerobic) ups the amount of oxygen entering your body, giving organs like your lungs and heart a dose of stimulation. In fact, a good laugh has been likened to physical exercise, a kind of “internal jogging” that increases oxygen intake and keeps organs and muscles thriving in an oxygen-rich environment.
3. Improve Your Immune System
We’ve all heard about the power our minds have to help control the health of our bodies. Perpetual negative thoughts and actions linger in our bodies, acting as a stressor. In turn, our overall health suffers. But a laugh can change all of that. Dr. Lee Berk, along with researcher Dr. Stanley Tan, studied the correlation between laughter and the immune system at Loma Linda University in California. They found laughter to be very beneficial in helping to increase immune system functionality. For example, they discovered that laughter increased the antibody IgA (immunoglobulin A) which is responsible for fighting upper respiratory tract infections.
4. Diminish Pain
Laughter provides a distraction from pain, providing temporary relief from our aches. According to a study published in the Journal of Holistic Nursing, patients were told one-liners after surgery and before painful medication was administered. The Journal states that patients who heard the humorous story felt less pain as opposed to those who were not told a joke. In many instances, commonly in the holistic community, humor therapy is used as part of the healing process. It’s thought that a laugh creates natural painkillers and may also break pain-spasm cycles brought on by some muscle disorders.
5. Provide Stress & Depression Relief
For a variety of reasons, people experience stress and depression. Whether it’s holiday or work related, due to a chronic illness or personal setbacks, stress and depression can take its toll on the body. Laughter (remember, it can even be forced laughter and doesn’t have to be a knee-slapping belly laugh) plays a role in reducing depression, stress and anxiety, helping people feel lighter and more relaxed.
So go ahead and laugh. Your body will benefit in many ways!