With National Belly Laugh day coming up tomorrow, I’m going to go out on a limb and start things off with the bold claim that people enjoy laughing. It’s pretty fun, generally speaking. I’ve been known to laugh when I’m having fun, personally, and I don’t think that’s too strange. You’ve probably also heard that laughter has health benefits as well, but do these claims hold water, or are they just a load of hot air?
It turns out that laughing actually does make you healthier, and not just for the obvious reasons – turns out that stress isn’t the only thing that a good guffaw can grapple with. Laughter can have a positive impact on everything from your cardiac health to your social and societal well-being.
Laughter won’t fix a broken bone or cure a cough, but it can do wonders for quite a few parts of your body. Since laughter makes you breathe quicker, your muscles get more oxygen, which makes them relax and loosen up.
The high-oxygen environment also kicks your heart into high gear to funnel all of the oxygen your lungs are taking in around the body, which has the end result of a light cardio workout for the duration of the laughing spell. That little amount of activity actually does result in a few more calories being burned than normal breathing, which might help explain the recent “laughing yoga” fad.
Laughter almost always comes with positive emotions, and our bodies associate the sensation of laughter with peace, happiness and well-being. When you laugh, there’s a reflex in your brain which results in lower concentrations of the stress hormones epinephrine and cortisol. Laughing also releases feel-good chemicals in your brain, which can actually help you better manage pain.
The low-stress condition that laughter helps get you into promotes the creation of your native antibodies and immune cells. This makes it easier to fight off illnesses and get you back into fighting form a little more quickly.
Laughter also helps you become more resilient to hardships and adds to your ability to deal with new stresses in your life. Just like we learned in Professor Lupin’s class, when something scary turns into a joke, we have a much easier time tackling the problem with a positive mindset. By learning to laugh in the face of scary situations, you can often overcome problems that would have previously been insurmountable.
So, in honor of national belly laugh day tomorrow, treat yourself to something funny and let yourself laugh a bit – it’ll do your mind and body a whole lot of good.
Photo Credit to Andrew Vargas