The Health Benefits of Humor and Laughter

Humor & Laughter: Health Benefits & Online Sources

Humor is infectious. When laughter is shared, it binds people together and increases happiness and
intimacy. Laughter also triggers healthy physical changes in the body. Humor and laughter strengthen
your immune system, boost your energy, diminish pain, and protect you from the damaging effects of

* Laughter is strong medicine

* Laughter and emotional health

* Social benefits of laughter

* Bringing more laughter into your life

* Developing your sense of humor

* Using humor to overcome challenges

Laughter is strong medicine for mind and body

“Your sense of humor is one of the most powerful tools you have to make certain that your daily mood
andemotional state support good health.”   ~ Paul E. McGhee, Ph.D.

Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster or more dependably
to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humor lightens your burdens,
inspireshopes, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert.

With so much power to heal and renew, the ability to laugh easily and frequently is a tremendous
resource for surmounting problems, enhancing your relationships, and supporting both physical and
emotional health.

Laughter is good for your health

~  Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving
yourmuscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.

~  Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune
cellsand infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.

~  Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins
promotean overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.

~ Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood
flow,which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

The Benefits of Laughter

Physical Health Benefits:              Mental Health Benefits:                       Social Benefits:  
Boosts immunity                            Adds joy and zest to life                      Strengthens relationships
Lowers stress hormones              Eases anxiety and fear                        Attracts others to us
Decreases pain                             Relieves stress                                     Enhances teamwork
Relaxes your muscles                   Improves mood                                    Helps defuse conflict
Prevents heart disease                 Enhances resilience                             Promotes group bonding

The social benefits of humor and laughter:

Humor and playful communication strengthen our relationships by triggering positive feelings and
fostering emotional connection. When we laugh with one another, a positive bond is created. This bond
acts as a strong buffer against stress, disagreements, and disappointment.

Laughing with others is more powerful than laughing alone:

Shared laughter is one of the most effective tools for keeping relationships fresh and exciting. All
emotional sharing builds strong and lasting relationship bonds, but sharing laughter and play also adds
joy, vitality, and resilience. And humor is a powerful and effective way to heal resentments,
disagreements, and hurts. Laughter unites people during difficult times.

Incorporating more humor and play into your daily interactions can improve the quality of your love
relationships— as well as your connections with co-workers, family members, and friends. Using
humor and laughter in relationships allows you to:

Be more spontaneous.        Humor gets you out of your head and away from your troubles.
Let go of defensiveness.     Laughter helps you forget judgments, criticisms, and doubts.
Release inhibitions.             Your fear of holding back and holding on are set aside.
Express your true feelings. Deeply felt emotions are allowed to rise to the surface.

Bringing more humor and laughter into your life:

Laughter is your birthright, a natural part of life that is innate and inborn. Infants begin smiling during
the first weeks of life and laugh out loud within months of being born. Even if you did not grow up in a
household where laughter was a common sound, you can learn to laugh at any stage of life.

Begin by setting aside special times to seek out humor and laughter, as you might with working out,
and build from there. Eventually, you’ll want to incorporate humor and laughter into the fabric of your
life, finding it naturally in everything you do.

Here are some ways to start:

Smile. Smiling is the beginning of laughter. Like laughter, it’s contagious. Pioneers in “laugh therapy",
find it’s possible to laugh without even experiencing a funny event. The same holds for smiling. When
you look at someone or see something even mildly pleasing, practice smiling.

Count your blessings. Literally make a list. The simple act of considering the good things in your life
will distance you from negative thoughts that are a barrier to humor and laughter. When you’re in a
state of sadness, you have further to travel to get to humor and laughter.

When you hear laughter, move toward it. Sometimes humor and laughter are private, a shared joke
among a small group, but usually not. More often, people are very happy to share something funny
because it gives them an opportunity to laugh again and feed off the humor you find in it. When you
hear laughter, seek it out and ask, “What’s funny?”

Spend time with fun, playful people. These are people who laugh easily–both at themselves and at
life’s absurdities–and who routinely find the humor in everyday events. Their playful point of view and
laughter are contagious.

Bring humor into conversations. Ask people, “What’s the funniest thing that happened to you today?
This week? In your life?”

Ways to help yourself see the lighter side of life:

Laugh at yourself. Share your embarrassing moments. The best way to take yourself less seriously is
to talk about times when you took yourself too seriously.

Attempt to laugh at situations rather than bemoan them. Look for the humor in a bad situation, and
uncover the irony and absurdity of life. This will help improve your mood and the mood of those around

Surround yourself with reminders to lighten up. Keep a toy on your desk or in your car. Put up a
funny poster in your office. Choose a computer screensaver that makes you laugh. Frame photos of you
and your family or friends having fun.

Keep things in perspective. Many things in life are beyond your control—particularly the behavior of
other people. While you might think taking the weight of the world on your shoulders is admirable, in the
long run it’s unrealistic, unproductive, unhealthy, and even egotistical.

Deal with your stress. Stress is a major impediment to humor and laughter.

Pay attention to children and emulate them. They are the experts on playing, taking life lightly, an

When you find yourself taken over by what seems to be a horrible problem, ask these questions:

Is it really worth getting upset over?
Is it worth upsetting others?
Is it that important?
Is it that bad?
Is the situation irreparable?
Is it really your problem?  
Laughter is the Best Medicine
Melinda Smith, M.A., Gina Kemp, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D.

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