As the saying goes, “laughter is the best medicine,” and several scientific studies stand firmly behind this claim that a good belly laugh not only feels good, but also has significant benefits to our mental and physical well being. Whether you’re struggling with mental health issues, such as an anxiety disorder or clinical depression, or physical health issues, such as Parkinson’s disease or heart disease, laughing can be beneficial to anyone.
Read on for a few great reasons to get your giggle on:
- Belly laughs improve respiratory health
Forget that yoga class! Did you know that a good round of laughter can improve oxygenation and respiratory health? Research conducted in 2009 and published by the International Journal of Humor Research found that a good belly laugh was equivalent to the boost in heart rate and oxygen consumption you get with exercise. Keep in mind, the minutes are equal as well, so you’ll need to laugh for 30-minutes straight to get a decent work out.
- Release endorphins to reduce physical pain
According to research published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society in 2011, laugher may be as effective as pain relieving medication following surgery. The study monitored the pain tolerance of patients exposed to extreme cold temperatures. When exposed to laughter, findings showed that pain was alleviated due to the release of feel good chemicals (or endorphins) and was as effective, in some cases, as common analgesics (i.e., codeine, morphine, and oxycodone).
- Laughter strengthens immune health
In addition to getting a flu shot, maybe go see some stand up comedy to boost your immunity this flu season. For instance, a 2015 study published by the Journal of Alternative and Contemporary Medicine, examined the effects of chuckles on the immune health of women suffering from postpartum depression. The women who enjoyed a good guffaw, showed increased natural levels of IgA (or immunoglobulin antibodies) in their colostrum (or breast milk).
- Humor lowers high blood pressure
Hypertension is a major contributing factor to the development of stroke, heart attack, and heart disease. However, research from the American Heart Association (AHA) suggests laughter may be therapeutic when it comes to reducing high blood pressure. In fact a 2011 study from the AHA found that when patients were exposed to laughter therapy, rates of the stress hormone cortisol and diastolic blood pressure showed significant reduction of between 6 mmHG and 7 mmHg (millimeters of mercury).
- Laugh to blast stress
A psychological research paper published in the Psychiatric Quarterly goes to show that a sense of humor can be a positive catalyst during stressful or difficult periods in life. For instance, when monitoring the effects of laughter therapy on a group of patients with parkinson’s disease, the findings showed exposure to humor, smiling, and laugher reduced overall threat-induced anxiety and depression while boosting feelings of overall positivity and self-confidence.