“Laughter is the best medicine” is a phrase heard often but never really explained. Why would this interpretation of an ancient, biblical proverb recur so much without any truth to the saying? Are there legitimate benefits that can be gained from a simple chuckle to a full-bellied chortle? Can we take away the soreness from working out by sitting down and rewatching Parks and Recreation for an hour? Is it possible seeing your roommate slip and fall with a pie in their hands could be beneficial to your health? Possibly. Probably.
Laughter chills you out!
Nothing seems less “chill” than hysterically laughing, whether it be at a stand-up comedy show or a ridiculous incident occurring at the perfect moment. Tears rolling down the eyes, tomato red face, stomach cramping from too much laughing; none of these sound relaxing but, surprisingly, they are.
According to Mary Payne Bennett of the Indiana State University’s College of Nursing and Cecile A. Lengacher of the University of South Florida’s College of Nursing, laughing can be beneficial for balancing your blood pressure, easing digestion (even soothing stomach aches) and relaxing muscles throughout the body. “Busting a gut” seems a lot less painful than the average person would assume.
When a person laughs, endorphins — a group of hormones secreted within the brain and nervous system that activate the body’s opiate receptors causing a “pain-relieving” effect — are released, stimulating the physiological functions listed before. Researchers agree it is not the most effective of “painkillers” but can be relieving to the common indigestion or sore muscles.
On top of the endorphin release, laughing also reduces stress hormones, giving a sense of relief after laughing.
So say you have an intense workout at the gym the night before or maybe you just woke up with an upset stomach or a disturbed mind, try watching a YouTube video, maybe an episode of your favorite comedy, whatever gets your “jollies” going, give it a try and see how you feel. It might just make the day a little better.
You can get abs from laughing? Wait…WHAT?!?!
Okay, that was a little misleading, laughing doesn’t necessarily give you abs, but it does help. According to The Center of Nonverbal Studies, laughing uses over 43 muscles including different facial, jaw and throat muscles, abdominal muscles and the diaphragm.
When a person is laughing, their stomach expands and contracts the same way when a person is doing ab exercises, such as crunches or situps. While not as intense as actually working out your abs, laughing does aid slightly in working out those muscles.
The exercise your respiratory system gets while laughing is also incredibly beneficial for cardio exercise. As stated before, laughing lowers the blood pressure which allows blood to flow easier throughout your body which helps build cardiovascular strength.
And for all you heavy lifters out there, a study by Oxford in 2011, discovered that laughter actually increases the pain threshold of a person. It was discovered, using comedies and documentaries, two groups were subjected to one or the other and the group subjected to the comedies showed an increase in their thresholds while those subjected to documentaries showed no deviation. So an extra set of lounging on the couch watching a funny program might need to be added to the routine.
Laughter…*SPOILER ALERT*… makes you happy!
This one shouldn’t be hard to grasp. Laughing makes you happier, unless you find yourself in a situation in which an evil individual is tickling you without consent while you are chained to a contraption of sorts while the frivolous finger invader continually tortures you using one of life’s precious gifts. That’s the exception.
Other than those specific requirements, laughter usually leads to happiness, or the determined madness of the neverending void, but that’s a completely different article topic. Laughter has shown not only to give relief, but also provide comfort in stressful situations or with groups of people. As mentioned earlier, endorphins are released when an individual laughs, giving that person a sense of well-being and calmness.
The University of Turku held a study discovering that endorphin release, induced by social laughter, strengthened the bonds between humans. If you’re able to hold a conversation with people and laughing is involved, you naturally feel more relaxed and more social. Social laughter led to pleasurable feelings and significantly increased release of endorphins and other opioid peptides in the brain areas controlling arousal and emotions. The more opioid receptors the participants had in their brain, the more they laughed during the experiment. This connection made by the University of Turku validated the term “laughter is contagious” as a literal concept.
Along with relaxation, improved exercise and general happiness, laughing is still being researched for more possible benefits. While research continues, test out the findings yourself and incorporate more humor in your daily life. Why not? The benefits are non-consequential and the only outcome is a stress free, better performing happy day, maybe even life.
Although laughing has many benefits for the human mind and body, this does not replace “serious” medical attention. If dealing with a severe injury, disease or mental illness, do seek out professional, medical help. Laughing may make dealing with an illness easier but seeking an actual doctor’s opinion will be beneficial for the long run, whether mental or physical.