Laughter, the expression goes, is the best medicine. That may not literally be true (penicillin may have something to say about this, for example), but the health benefits of chuckling are very real, and very well-documented. Here are three reasons a good laugh can help you live a healthier life. Pleasure and wellness don’t have to be mutually exclusive!
Laughter counteracts the effect of memory-killing stress.
According to a 2014 study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, laughter has the power to combat the negative cognitive effects of stress. Subjects were split into two groups, one given a humorous video to watch, and one merely told to sit still for 20 minutes. The subjects in the humor group performed twice as well as the control group in some circumstances, with the study proclaiming, “humor can have clinical benefits and rehabilitative implications and can be implemented in programs that support whole-person wellness for older adults.”
It benefits your physical condition.
I’m not suggesting, as some have, that laughter is akin to workout. There actually are exercises tailored specifically to yucks (Laughter Yoga, anyone?), but the physical benefits of laughing are far more basic than any training session. The Mayo Clinic writes that laughter activates certain organs, “enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.” Studies have even shown that laughter, via those endorphins, helps to increase your pain tolerance.
Laughter literally helps your body fight sickness.
Everyone loves a good joke—including, as it turns out, your white blood cells! That’s right, laughter has been proven to strengthen the immune system. This article is full of technical talk, but the gist is that several studies have shown that laughter and other positive emotions strengthen the body’s fight against disease. In one study, breast cancer patients were made to watch a funny video and then a distressing one, with blood tests after each viewing. After watching the pleasurable video, the blood of patients was found to contain higher levels of lymphocytes, or “Natural Killer” cells, which fight disease.
These reasons are impressive, but we don’t need science to tell us that laughing is good for us. How could any study capture the warmth of a sincere chuckle shared between friends? This list, more than anything, serves as icing on an already delicious cake. So remember, if you’re feeling bad, find something that amuses you. It may help in pleasantly unexpected ways.
Disclaimer: This content is for entertainment purposes only and it is not meant to be relied on as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult your physician before starting any exercise or dietary program or taking any other action respecting your health. In case of a medical emergency, call 911.