Bet you never considered that a visit to your local comedy club could positively affect your physical and emotional well-being.
If you’ve ever heard someone say, “Laughter is the best medicine!” they weren’t wrong. In fact, they may not have realized just how true that statement is. Research shows astounding benefits of laughter, from increasing general happiness to decreasing the risk of heart disease.
Time to find out how you can benefit from adding a little more laughter to your life.
Related: 7 Benefits of Laughter
1. Reduces Stress Hormone Levels
Turns out that participating regularly in activities that induce laughter can reduce anxiety and stress levels overall.
A 2008 study published in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Journal reported on a significant reduction in stress hormones cortisol and catecholamine with the perceptual anticipation of laughter. (1)
Chronic stress occurs when there is a constant presence of high levels of stress hormones. Studies show that chronic stress can lead to weight gain, immune system suppression, gastrointestinal problems, cardiovascular disease, and other things. Therefore, activities that reduce stress hormone levels can not only reduce anxiety and chronic stress but reduce many other physical health problems as well.
RELATED: Stress: The #1 Enemy of Weight Loss
2. Boosts Immune Function
Studies show that laughter improves the activity of natural killer (NK) cells—immune system cells that are essential to disease resistance and longevity. This is especially important for people who are immunocompromised, such as those with cancer or HIV. (2)
Also, because laughter reduces stress hormone levels, it reduces the risk of diseases that are caused by chronically high stress levels, thereby improving immune function.
3. Reduces the Risk of Heart Disease
Go ahead; let out a deep belly laugh. The long-term effects are invaluable.
Laughter is actually just a type of cardio workout. It causes the inner walls of the arteries to expand, increasing blood flow and lowering blood pressure. (3)
Chronically high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Therefore, engaging in any activity that reduces blood pressure—like laughter, for instance—is considered a heart-healthy choice.
4. Fights Depression
A good, hearty laughing session triggers the release of serotonin—also known as the “happy hormone.” In fact, the effects of laughter are similar to the effects of prescribed antidepressants, which help to balance chemicals in the brain.
A 2015 study published in the Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing examined the effects of laughter therapy on serotonin levels of depressed middle-aged women. The results were surprising. All three groups of women—those with mild, those with moderate, and those with severe depression—experienced a decrease in depression after only five sessions of laughter therapy. The group with severe depression experienced the greatest rise in serotonin levels and the biggest decline in depression. (4)
5. Controls Diabetes
People with type 2 diabetes can benefit from a good laugh.
Researchers are aware of the strong link between positive emotions and endocrinological and immunological responses. One study showed that laughter therapy can be used as a treatment for the prevention of diabetic microvascular complications. (5)
A 2007 study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research concluded that laughter may prevent or stop the exacerbation of diabetic nephropathy—damage to the kidneys caused by diabetes—by normalizing the expression of the prorenin receptor gene. (6)
6. Reduces Pain
Laughter causes a release of endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are hormones that act exactly like morphine or codeine; they make you feel good by inhibiting the transmission of pain signals.
These feel-good chemicals are also released when you exercise, when you see someone you love, when you have sex, when you eat comfort foods, and when you socialize. Laugh it up—you have a lot to gain.
7. Builds Resilience
“Laugh it off.”
It’s actually great advice. Laughter reduces stress and anxiety, so learning to laugh in stressful situations can help you cope better.
It’s difficult to think logically and come up with an effective solution when you’re overwhelmed by stress. Instead, find the irony in the predicament you’re in and use it to your advantage. Once you’ve had a good laugh about it, you can approach the problem from a different perspective and reach a logical solution.
8. Creates Bonds
Laughter brings people together even in the most uncomfortable situations. It breaks tension, cuts awkwardness, and creates shared memories. There’s a reason you feel closer to a person once you discover that the two of you share a sense of humor.
Turns out there’s a scientific explanation for this phenomenon. Laughter causes a release of oxytocin—also known as the “love hormone”—in the brain. It causes people to feel bonded with those around them.
Oxytocin is also released during cuddling, sex, childbirth, and breastfeeding. Its main purposes are for social bonding, sexual reproduction, and during and after childbirth.
Next time you’re with a group of people, start with a humorous icebreaker and watch the tension melt away.
9. Promotes an Overall Sense of Well-Being
All those positive chemicals—serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins—are released from just one super fun activity. It’s no wonder that regular mirthful laughter leads to an overall sense of well-being.
The positive effects last a few hours after laughing, so make sure you laugh at least a few times a day—every day—for a happy, healthy, and long life.