A phrase like that calls to mind similar adage, such as “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
Laughter has a profound effect on the body—it can improve memory, reduce stress, and even protect you from illnesses. Studies have also shown that the health benefits of laugher are similar to those of a workout, as laughter increases blood flow, exercises muscles and improves sleep.
You don’t need to read this to know that laughing is fun and helps us feel better. But did you know that research has proven that a little chuckle can improve memory, reduce stress, and even help protect you from illness?
It’s true! Laughing is comparable to a mild workout. Laughing exercises muscles, decreases blood pressure, improves sleep patterns, boosts the immune system, and gets the blood flowing. While researchers don’t know exactly how laughter positively affects health, they do know that when you are laughing, you’re providing healthy stimulation for your heart and blood vessels.
“We don’t know why laughing protects the heart, but we know that mental stress is associated with impairment of the endothelium, the protective barrier lining of our blood vessels. This can cause a series of inflammatory reactions that lead to fat and cholesterol build-up in the coronary arteries and ultimately to a heart attack,”
- Dr. Michael Miller, director of the Center for Preventative Cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Yet despite laughter’s benefits, most of us go days, maybe weeks, without a hearty cackle.
What happens when we laugh?
Interestingly, studies have shown that the benefits of laughter are the same in different countries and cultures, even though what’s thought of as funny can vary greatly. Researchers across the world are urging that doctors ask patients about their “laugh history” because humor is so vital to maintaining a high quality of life.
Some studies have shown that the ability to use humor in stressful situations may raise the level of infection-fighting antibodies in the body and boost immune cell levels.
A minute of laughter causes our pulse to elevate; we breathe faster, which in turn sends more oxygen to our tissues.
Relaxation and Sleep
A group of Japanese researchers found that laughing in the evening causes the body to produce more melatonin—the hormone released by the brain when we’re about to fall asleep.
Blood Sugar Levels
A study forced 19 people with diabetes to attend a wearying lecture for two hours after eating. The next day, the group ate the same meal and watched a two-hour comedy. After the movie, the group had significantly lower blood sugar levels than they did following the lecture.
Neuroscientist, Robert Provine, PhD., concluded, “Uniquely human, laughter is, first and foremost, a social signal—it disappears when there is no audience, which may be as small as one other person—and it binds people together. It synchronizes the brains of speaker and listener so that they are emotionally attuned.”