You’re Having a Laugh

I’m lucky enough to live with someone that makes me laugh a lot. This got me thinking recently; how exactly does laughter affect our health? And, if we are going through a period of stress, is using laughter a clever, short-cut technique to help minimise the impact?

How Does Laughter Affect our Body?

– Relaxes the entire body: laughing has been shown to relieve physical tension in the body and this can last for as much as 45 minutes after a good chuckle.

– Boosts our immune system: laughing helps decrease stress hormones, whilst increasing immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, which improves our resistance to disease. And this stuff is free!

– Improves our mood: laughter triggers a release of endorphins (the body’s natural feel-good chemical).

– Helps reduce pain: studies have shown that laughter can help reduce pain in patients (just think of the brilliant Robin William’s film, Patch Adams, which is based on a real story about a doctor who used laughter as form of healing therapy.

– Diffuses conflict: laughing can put help put your problems and worries in perspective and it can help diffuse your anger.

– Protects the heart: laughter can actually improve the function of the blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help to protect us against a heart attack or other cardiovascular problems.

– Burns calories: okay, so it’s not quite like a run or a hiit class in the gym, but even 10-15 minutes of laughter has been shown to burn around 40 calories – not to be sniffed at as this alone can lead to a weight loss of a few pounds over the course of a year!

– Promotes group bonding: try it at work – it’s particularly beneficial and, of course, in a family dynamic it can keep the cogs moving more freely and can open up communication and a feeling of closeness.

– Could even help you live longer: one Norwegian study found that those with a strong sense of humour lived longer that those who didn’t laugh as much

Think about it – when was the last time you had a really good laugh? When you were a child, you laughed many, many times each day. So isn’t it time to inject some of that powerful, immune and endorphin-boosting laughter back into your life? By seeking out more opportunities to laugh, you can improve your emotional health, strengthen your relationships, discover greater happiness and even live longer. So how can you go about doing that?

Look for the Fun

Most of our laughter doesn’t come from jokes, but simply by spending time together with loved ones. Face-to-face contact, with the phone or screen put away, opens up a type of dialogue that allows for some fun, teasing and even flirting. You can’t really engage with another person if you’re distracted, so it requires real engagement, listening and being open. Try to seek out people who lift your mood and are fun and playful. That means people who laugh easily and find humour in the banal, everyday things – those situations often provide the best laughs.

And smile more – start with the person who serves you your morning coffee or the co-workers you greet at your office and even the children you’re rearing; spreading a smile makes other people feel better, but it also has a huge effect on you.

Try laughing – even it’s forced at first (research shows that even forced laughter has the same health benefits as the brain is tricked into thinking it’s authentic). And you’ll find that it’s so ridiculous that you start to laugh for real! There are now laughter yoga classes, but other routes include watching a funny movie or a hilarious YouTube clip, going to a local comedy club or reading a funny book (my sister recommends This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay – she said it created full-on belly-laughs every time she read it!).

Read More about Laughter

The Science of Laughter: – an article in Psychology Today.

Humour in the Workplace:- an article by BBC News.

Book: Laugh: Everyday Laughter Therapy for Better Health and Wellbeing

Blog Post by Maebh Coyle