When’s the last time you enjoyed a big belly laugh? Whether your funny bone is tickled by a sitcom, a clever joke or a friend’s hilarious story, it feels good – even joyous, rejuvenating or cathartic – to laugh deeply and freely. It turns out that laughter offers other benefits, as well. Here are five ways that laughing lifts our spirits and boosts our health.
Laughing has been proven to reduce levels of stress hormones like cortisol. It also increases endorphin levels, so every time you laugh, your brain gets a rush of health-promoting hormones. Plus, the good feelings you get from laughing can last up to 24 hours.
Your blood vessels are lined with a thin layer of tissue called the endothelium. When you let out a hearty laugh, the endothelium expands, allowing an increased flow of blood throughout your body. Laughter also causes your muscles and joints to flex and stretch, promoting healthy muscle tone in places that aren’t usually strengthened by other activities.
Making deep, personal connections with others is an important part of physical and mental health. So, it’s no surprise that laughter is even more beneficial when it’s shared with others. Laughter builds rapport, decreases negative feelings and increases your social attraction, which means that sharing a good chuckle with others will make it easier to build a deep and meaningful connection.
The endorphin rush that floods your body after a good laugh is the same one that raises your ability to endure pain. Take advantage of laughter’s ability to relieve pain by allowing yourself to laugh even when your body doesn’t feel its best – you may find that a little bit of humour makes it easier to cope.
Every time you laugh, your stress hormones are reduced. This allows the cells in your immune system to function more efficiently. Also, the deep breaths you take during a fit of laughter clears your airways and promotes an oxygen/carbon dioxide exchange far greater than regular breathing. Laughing with friends and loved ones brings a breath of fresh air into your body, flushing out stress and allowing your immune system to better defend against illness and infection.