Laughter is the Best Medicine
It’s not entirely clear when and why National Tell-a-Joke was started, but every August 16th for many years, people all over the country participate in a day of telling jokes and laughter. If you ask us, we should have more days that allow us to let loose and invite laughter in our lives because research has shown that the health benefits of laughter are far-ranging. Studies have shown that laughter can help relieve stress, decrease pain, and even increased immunity.
The growing field of positive psychology names the propensity for laughter and sense of humor as one of the 24 main strengths one can possess for resilience and greater happiness. Strangely enough, it seems as though many people don’t get enough laughter in their lives. One study suggests that healthy children may laugh as much as 400 times per day, but adults tend to only laugh around 15 times daily. Considering how beneficial a good laugh can actually be for our stress levels and overall wellness, we could all use a little more laughter than that!
So how does laughter benefit our stress management? Here are a number of reasons why you should celebrate National Tell-a-Joke Day.
Laughter Decreases Blood Pressure
High blood pressure or hypertension is one of the most dangerous side effects of stress, as well as a huge risk for heart disease and stroke. Multiple research studies show that laughter can bring blood pressure down. One 2017 study in the Journal of Dental and Medical Research shows that 40 patients who underwent hemodialysis who listened to CDs of comic shows for 16-30 minute sessions over eight weeks and saw a decrease in blood pressure.
In 2011, a 3-month long study conducted by American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions exposed 79 participants to either a music or laughter therapy. Immediately after these sessions, the blood pressure readings showed that the laughers had lower blood pressure of 7mmHg (millimeters of mercury) compared to music therapy, which only brought blood pressure down by 6 mmHg.
Laughter Strengthens your Immune System
Laughter reduces the level of stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine, dopamine, and growth hormone. It also increases the level of health-enhancing hormones like endorphins. Laughter increases the number of antibody-producing cells we have working for us and enhances the effectiveness of our T cells. In other words, what all of this means is that laughter strengthens your immune system!
Laughter is an Internal Workout
A good belly laugh exercises the diaphragm and contracts the abs. It can lead to increased heart rate, respiratory rate, and oxygen consumption, which are similar to what happens during exercise. In other words, laughter is a good workout for the heart! Not to mention that laughter also provides emotional release.
Laughter May Act as a Natural Anti-Depressant
While nobody would recommend laughter in lieu of other treatments for depression, it has shown promise at mitigating depressed moods. According to a 2017 study in the Korean Journal of Adult Nursing, patients in long-term care facilities often suffer from depression and poor sleep. The study tested the effects of laughter therapy on 42 residents of two long-term care hospitals, and the results were promising.
Another 2016 study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that three 60-minute laughter therapy sessions improved the depression and negative mood states of cancer patients.
Laughter May Relieve Pain
In the 14th century, French surgeon Henri de Mondeville used humor to distract patients from the pain of surgery and to help them during recovery. Modern research found that participants who watched comedy videos needed less pain medications than those who watched non-comedic videos. In a 2011 study published in the Proceedings of Royal Society, researchers show that social laughter — laughter done in groups in a social context — elevates pain thresholds, possibly due to the action of endorphins released by laughter.
We hope we’ve convinced you that you should find something to laugh about today, and make sure to go out there and spread the joy.