We have all heard of the saying: “Laughter is the best medicine.”
However, as it turns out, this light-hearted expression about the power of laughter is no joke, holding much more truth behind it than we ever might have realised.
Read on to learn about the surprising correlation between health and humour and how a healthy dose of laughter in your life may even help you live longer.
Does Laughing Really Help You Live Longer?
According to a study conducted in Norway, the answer is yes!
After following 50,000 people for more than 15 years, the study found that those with a sense of humour lived—on average—eight years longer than those who didn’t, in spite of any illness.
In fact, the researchers found that, overall, people with a sense of humour were 35 percent more likely to live longer, with laughter associating positively with survival for people suffering from cardiovascular diseases and infections.
Furthermore, the study concluded that humour even had the potential to help people avoid infection and disease.
You may be wondering...why is this?
Well, it all comes down to science.
As a matter of fact, there are several findings of factual evidence that support this unexpected connection between humour and health.
A Few Fascinating Facts That Explain Why a Hearty Laugh is a Healthy Habit
1. Laughter Helps Your Heart (Both Literally and Figuratively)
Yes, laughter warms the heart, but did you know that laughter also boosts your overall heart health?
When we laugh, we are simultaneously improving the function of our blood vessels, increasing our blood flow.
This good blood flow circulating throughout the body helps protect your heart, lowering the risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular conditions.
2. Laughter Releases Endorphins, Boosting Your Mood
It’s no secret that laughter feels good and puts us in a happier mood, but what is the science supporting this feeling?
The scientific reason that laughter leads to a boosted mood is that when we laugh, our brains are stimulated to release endorphins—the natural feel-good chemicals produced in our bodies.
These “happy hormones” promote a more positive state of mind and better overall well-being.
3. Laughter Lowers Your Stress Hormones
Yes, you read that right!
The act of laughing has been proven to lower your overall stress hormones, which can significantly improve both your mental and physical health in countless ways that you will soon learn about, and who doesn’t want that?
4. Laughter Boosts Your Immune System
Our immune systems are the protectors and defenders of our bodies, fiercely fighting off foreigners and stifling sneaky sicknesses. This is why strengthening your immune system is a pivotal piece of the puzzle for achieving and maintaining overall good health.
Stress doesn’t just wreak havoc on our mental health, but it also negatively impacts our physical health, namely the immune system.
Have you ever noticed that you tend to get sick during particularly stressful periods of time? This is because stress has a direct impact on the immune system.
Stress suppresses the production and function of white blood cells, which help the body fight off infection. Beyond this, stress can further inhibit the functioning of your immune system by interfering with sleep. A combination of high stress and limited sleep is a match made in heaven for getting sick.
However, as we just learned, laughter lowers stress levels. In response to lowered stress levels, your body will start producing more immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies.
This process promotes a generous boost for your immune system and overall health, as an increased production of immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies will help protect you from getting sick as often, as well as decrease the recovery period needed to get over a sickness.
5. Laughter Relaxes the Body, Relieving Physical Tension
When someone is too tightly wound or serious, you might tell them to “loosen up!”
As it turns out, this phrase can be taken quite literally because laughter has been proven to relax the body and its muscles.
Based on what we’ve previously learned, when you laugh, this physical exertion improves the circulation of blood throughout your body.
Improved circulation equates to oxygen being delivered more efficiently to all parts of your body, including your muscles and joints. When your muscles and joints receive more oxygen, they are able to ease up into a more relaxed state, thus “loosening you up.”
In fact, your muscles can stay relaxed for up to 45 minutes after a big, hearty belly laugh, so get to it!
6. Laughter Lowers Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a serious medical issue that many people face that can lead to several health complications such as strokes, heart attacks, kidney failure, and nerve damage to the eyes—just to name a few.
However, because laughter lowers the amount of stress hormones in your body, which are often a contributing factor to high blood pressure, lowering stress levels also lowers your blood pressure.
7. Laughter Improves Your Memory
It’s no secret that as you age, you begin to struggle significantly more with memory than when you were younger.
Because of this, the struggle to recall names, dates, and numbers can be stressful.
The problem, though, is that this stress only exacerbates the issue, as the stress hormone cortisol can deteriorate your short-term memory function.
However, when you laugh, your stress hormones decrease, allowing your brain to repair itself from the damage of the cortisol, resulting in improved memory.
8. Laughter Combats Anxiety and Depression
Chances are that you probably know someone suffering from the serious mental health conditions of anxiety or depression.
However, laughter is a gleaming beam of light whose power can pierce through even the blackest of nights and the darkest of days.
Not only does laughter combat stress hormones in your body, but it reduces the severity of feelings of anxiety or depression, boosting your self-esteem and brightening your overall outlook on life.
9. Laughter Decreases Physical and Emotional Pain
Laughter is a powerful weapon in combatting the experience of emotional pain, but its extraordinary healing abilities don’t end there.
It is capable of relieving physical pain as well.
When you laugh, your body responds by producing its own natural painkillers. Pretty cool, right?
10. Laughter Encourages Connection
Of course, it’s still loads of fun when you find yourself giggling uncontrollably while watching your favourite comedy show, but let’s face it, laughter feels even better when it is shared with others.
After all, there’s a reason why people say that “laughter is contagious.”
One of laughter’s strongest and most valuable capabilities is bringing people together.
Laughter serves as the universal, unspoken language of connection, a powerful force that effortlessly bridges the gaps between individuals.
In shared laughter, barriers dissolve, and a sense of community emerges.
Laughter is a social glue that bonds people, creating a shared experience that transcends differences and fosters a profound sense of togetherness, making it an invaluable cornerstone of the human experience.
It is in the shared smiles, chuckles, and belly laughs that relationships strengthen, creating a bond that endures long after the echoes of laughter have subsided.