Why laughter is really the best medicine

Laughter is contagious!

One Saturday night we had just our boys for the evening because my daughter was out. They were 13 and 15, and we wanted to watch something funny. Knowing that so many movies and tv shows aren’t really appropriate for this age spread, we picked one that we had referenced often just being silly with each other in conversation—my oldest son had a very serious camera face, so of course we called it “Blue Steel”. When the song “Wake me up, before you go” came on, my husband mocked flinging a gas pump around his head. And we often called our kids “really really, ridiculously good looking” when they took showers or brushed their teeth, so we thought it was time to introduce them to Zoolander. About 40 minutes in, they still hadn’t laughed, not even once. Almost an hour in and we had giggled a few times, but the most we got from them was a small smile. We finally paused and asked if they understood the jokes. “Yeah…sure…we get it, it’s just not very funny.”  For some reason, we thought this was hysterical. The movie we had hyped as hilarious didn’t even get a giggle from them. We started laughing, and then they started laughing at us, and in that 5 minutes we actually laughed more than the entire movie. We shut off the movie and played a game instead. 

What’s funny to you is pretty subjective. Some people love slapstick, Three Stooges-type humor. Others prefer dark and risqué humor. Regardless what kind speaks to you, laughter is really, really, ridiculously good for your body. 

10 ways laughter is good for your body and mind

1. It relaxes you. Even a few minutes of laughter can relieve physical tension and stress in your body, and some experts think it can leave your muscles relaxed for almost an hour after!

2. It boosts endorphins. Endorphins are those natural neurochemicals that help you feel good, feel happy, and relieve pain. Laughing helps trigger the release of these! Patch Adams had it right all along!

3. It stimulates your whole body systems, including your organs, in the best way. Laughing allows you to intake more oxygen, which then gets fed to all of your systems.

4. It can help keep you from getting sick. Laughter increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, which can help improve your ability to fight infections and diseases. 

5. It burns calories. Okay, so it’s only the calories in about two Hershey’s kisses, but still! Laughing for 10 minutes a day can burn about 40-50 calories, and done every day, that could really add up! 

6. It helps you think clearly again. When you’re emotional, the part of your brain that processes things rationally tends to slow or shut down because too much energy is given to the parts that process whether you need to fight or flee. Slowing down for a laugh allows your brain to relax off the adrenaline gas and see more clearly. 

7. It can strengthen your heart. Hearty laughter improves blood flow and blood vessel function, which can help stave off cardiovascular issues. 

8. It makes you feel closer to those around you. Laughing in a group or with others helps you feel like you have something in common, and makes you feel more connected.

9. It decreases mental stress. If laughter is physically relaxing you, and helping you release endorphins, and helping you “feel good”, it’s no surprise laughing often helps people report less mental stress, even on days when they don’t find something funny. 

10. It may help you live longer! All of the physical and mental health benefits of laughter don’t go unnoticed in the body, and don’t go away just because you stop giggling. Studies show people with a sense of humor outlive those who report that they don’t laugh often. And if life is full of humor, that’s all the more reason to enjoy it longer!