Smiles are Contagious Too: Therapeutic Reasons to Laugh
“Laughter is the best medicine” Bennet Cerf
With so much power to heal, renew and relax, the ability to laugh easily and frequently is an inherent resource we all possess for destressing and supporting physical, emotional and spiritual health.
Did you know that children laugh several hundreds of times a day, but adults only laugh an average of 20 times a day?!? Here are some reasons to laugh more everyday:
Laughter strengthens the immune system: In this time when we are all concerned with boosting immunity, laughter is a cost-free, easy and fun therapy that will do just that! Studies have shown that laughter increases both innate and adaptive immunity.1, 2, 3
Laughter triggers the release of endorphins: Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can relieve pain.4,5
Laughter improves mood, decreases depression and improves sleep: Laughter has been found to decrease the severity of depression and improve sleep quality.6, 7
Laughter relaxes the body and mind: A good laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed. Laughter also decreases circulating levels of the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine.9,10
Laughter strengthens social connections: Laughter improves connection and promotes social bonding. In this time where many are feeling socially isolated, laughter is a free, fun resource available to all of us to help maintain and improve social connections. 9, 11
Laughter protects the heart: Laughter improves the function of blood vessels, increases blood flow, decreases hypertension and can help prevent heart disease.12,13
Suggestions on ways of finding laughter in your life:
Spend time with children – laughter is contagious, and children laugh ten times more than adults in an average day. Children are not afraid to be or look silly; children find humor more easily than most adults. So do something really silly – make a funny face, talk in a funny voice, sing a funny song, walk in a funny manner – just like you used to do when you were a kid!
Watch a comedy movie or TV show
Spend time with pets or animals, talk to your pet, they find you funny.
Watch funny animal videos on YouTube
Make yourself laugh! As it is said, ‘fake it til you make it!’ Laughter really is contagious and once you start you may find it difficult to stop.
Practice telling jokes and try and make someone else laugh
Go to a laughter yoga class
And now, to provide you with exactly the medicine we are recommending:
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Bennett MP, Lengacher C. Humor and laughter may influence health IV. humor and immune function. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2009;6:159-64. 10.1093/ecam/nem149
Bennett MP, Zeller JM, Rosenberg L, McCann J. The effect of mirthful laughter on stress and natural killer cell activity. Altern Ther Health Med. 2003;9(2):38–45.
Yoshiakwa et al. Beneficial effect of laughter therapy on physiological and psychological function in elders. Nurs Open. 2019 Jan; 6(1): 93–99.
Morse DR. Use of humor to reduce stress and pain and enhance healing in the dental setting. J N J Dent Assoc. 2007;78(4):32–6.
MacDonald CM. A chuckle a day keeps the doctor away: therapeutic humor and laughter. J Psychosoc Nurs Ment Health Serv. 2004;42(3):18–25.
Ko HJ, Youn CH. Effects of laughter therapy on depression, cognition and sleep among the community-dwelling elderly. Geriatr Gerontol Int. 2011 Jul;11(3):267-74. doi: 10.1111/j.1447-0594.2010.00680.x. Epub 2011 Jan 17
Bennett MP, Lengacher C. Humor and laughter may influence health. III. Laughter and health outcomes. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2008;5(1):37–40.
Strean W. Laughter prescription. Can Fam Physician. 2009 Oct; 55(10): 965–967.
Berk L. S., Tan S. A., Fry W. F., Napier B. J., Lee J. W., Hubbard R. W., Eby W. C. Neuroendocrine and stress hormone changes during mirthful laughter. American Journal of the Medical Sciences, 1989, 390–396.
Manninen et al. Social Laughter Triggers Endogenous Opioid Release in Humans. J Neuroscience. 2017 Jun 21; 37(25): 6125–6131.
Rosner F. Therapeutic efficacy of laughter in medicine. Cancer Invest. 2002;20(3):434–6.
Balick MJ, Lee R. The role of laughter in traditional medicine and its relevance to the clinical setting: healing with ha! Altern Ther Health Med. 2003;9(4):88–91.