As children, we used to laugh hundreds of times a day, but as adults, life tends to be more serious. By seeking out more opportunities for humor and laughter, you can improve your emotional health, strengthen your relationships, find greater happiness—and even add years to your life. Laughter truly is the best medicine with some surprising health benefits, plus it is fun and free!
Physical health benefits of laughter
Laughter relaxes your body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress by amping up and then cooling down your stress response, and then increasing and decreasing your blood pressure. Your body will feel relaxed for up to 45 minutes afterward.
Laughter boosts your immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease. It’s also said that negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that bring more stress into your system and decrease immunity, whereas positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially serious illnesses.
Laughter relieves pain. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s feel-good, natural painkillers.
Laughter protects the heart. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, and stimulates your heart, lungs, and muscles, which can help protect against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems. A study by cardiologists at the University of Maryland found that people with heart disease were 40 percent less likely to laugh than were people of the same age without heart disease. Coincidence?
Laughter burns calories. Don’t give up your Zumba just yet, but one study found that laughing 10–15 minutes a day can burn approximately 40 calories—enough to lose three or four pounds after a year!
Laugher increases longevity. A study in Norway found that people with a strong sense of humor outlive those who don’t laugh as much. The difference was particularly notable for those battling cancer; it helps to maintain a sense of humor during trying times.
Mental health and social health benefits of laughter
Laughter stops negative emotions. You can’t feel anxious, angry, or sad when you’re doubled over with laughter. And as mentioned above, replacing negative thoughts for positive thoughts also improves physical health!
Laughter helps you relax, recharge, and refocus. Laughter reduces stress and increases energy, enabling you to improve focus and productivity.
Laughter changes your perspective. When you’re laughing, the world around you seems less threatening and ill intentioned. A humorous perspective creates psychological distance, which can help you lessen conflict and overwhelm. You’ll also feel less defensive and inhibited. As a plus, humor is the best way to defuse tense or awkward situations!
Laughter bonds you closer to others. Share a good laugh as often as you can! After all, laughter is contagious. It’s also one of the keys to creating and refreshing relationships, which can have a profound effect on your overall health.
How to invite more laughter into your life
Smile. A smile is the precursor to laughter, and like laughter, it’s contagious. Practice smiling. Instead of looking down at your phone, look up and smile at people you pass in the street, the Starbucks barista, or the coworkers sharing the elevator. Notice how they respond to you.
Count your blessings. Literally make a list. The simple act of considering the positive in your life will distance you from the negativity that blocks humor and laughter.
Bring humor into conversations. Ask people, “What’s the funniest thing that happened to you today/this week/in your life?” It’s a great icebreaker.
Take an improv class. Even if acting isn’t your strong suit, or if you’re terrified of public speaking, you will be surprised at how much laughter you can get out of an improv class, both in watching others and in what can come out of your own mouth!
Share a laugh. Make it a habit to spend time with friends who make you laugh. Seek out people who laugh easily–both at themselves and at life’s absurdities–and who routinely find the humor in everyday events. You could even go to a comedy club—or better yet, go with your friends!
Putting it all together
You may have laughed more as a child, but you can learn to laugh at any stage of life. You can even watch children for pointers, because after all, they are the experts on playing, taking life lightly, and laughing at day-to-day things. They don’t take themselves too seriously, and neither should you!
You can start by learning to laugh at yourself and at bad situations. Share your embarrassing moments. Uncover the irony and absurdity of life. Don’t dwell on the negatives. Be sure to set aside that 10–15 minutes each day to seek out humor and laughter, just like you would exercise or eat breakfast. Do something that amuses you. Eventually, you’ll incorporate humor and laughter into the fabric of your life, finding it naturally in everything. The more you get used to laughing each day, the less effort you’ll have to make. And don’t ever go a day without laughing!
I’m Kay Hunter, Orange County image consultant for men and women over 40. I transform mature professionals, active adults, and seniors into more successful and confident versions of themselves. By expressing yourself through style and fashion, you’ll get that boost of confidence, visibility, and value you need to get to the next level. Enhance the joy of living—because great style is ageless!