Why Laughter Is Good for You: Physically, Emotionally, Socially

Updated on September 7, 2017
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Catherine Giordano is a public speaker and writer known for her inspirational essays and articles.

Laughter Is Good for You

Laughter can make you happier and healthier.
Laughter can make you happier and healthier. | Source

Why Is Laughter Good for You?

Laughter benefits your health, your emotional well-being, and your social interactions. You can learn to laugh more and be happier and healthier.

I’d like you to try the laughter exercise right now.

There are four sounds of laughter. They are:

Ho, Ha, He, Hay

Use those sounds to laugh right now. It doesn’t matter if it is fake laughing or real laughter. You get the benefits either way. Assuming you are reading this in an appropriate place, let go of your inhibitions and yuk it up.

Ho Ho Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha Ha He He He He Hay Hay Hay Hay

Many people, when fake laughing, start laughing for real. Did this happen to you?

Many people report that they feel different after doing this exercise. They report feeling lighter, more relaxed, happier, less stressed, less tired. Did this happen for you?

By the way, you can even laugh silently. Try it. Laugh without making a sound. Silent laughing works just as well as fake laughing and real laughing—your body doesn’t know the difference.

Gelotology

The study of the physiology of laughter is called gelotology. You can remember it by thinking of the poem, “The Night Before Christmas”, and how Santa Claus had “a little round belly, that shook when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.”

Children Love to Laugh

Children laugh an average of 400 times a day.
Children laugh an average of 400 times a day. | Source

How Many Times Have You Laughed Today?

How many times have you laughed today? The average adult laughs 17 times a day, but a child, on average, laughs 400 times a day. Why do children laugh so much? They are not afraid to be silly and everything in the world delights them.

I read this someplace: “We never really grow up. We just learn how to act in public.” Let your inner child out a little more often.

A Video of Quad Babies Laughing Will Chase Away the Blues.

Why Do We Laugh?

Laughter has been with us since the first human walked the earth. Scientific research suggests that we are hard-wired for laughter.

Laughter may first have developed over 10 million years ago. It is so old that it is actually pre-human. Research has shown that the great apes, chimpanzees, and monkeys can laugh. We’ve all seen chimps laughing in movies and on TV.

It seems that even dogs laugh. They say the long, loud pant is the sound of a dog laughing, and that it has a calming effect on the behavior of other dogs.

Scientists are now looking into whether rats laugh. Some think they do. I wonder what rats laugh at? Do you remember the Tom and Jerry cartoons? That mouse was always laughing.

The fact that laughter goes so far back on the evolutionary tree suggests that laughter is a very important trait.

How Does Laughter Benefit Your Health?

There is strong evidence that laughter can actually improve health. We have all heard the saying, “Laughter is the best medicine.” In the Bible, it says “A merry heart doeth good like medicine”.

Laughter helps fight disease.

It lowers blood pressure.

It boosts oxygen levels in the blood.

It reduces the amount of inflammation in the body.

It stimulates the immune system, by increasing the number of antibody-producing cells and enhancing the effectiveness of T cells.

It reduces the level of stress hormones while increasing the level of endorphins. Endorphins give us a natural high, a feeling of euphoria.

Laughter provides a full body aerobic workout.

Did you ever laugh until it hurts? Here’s why. Laughter gives your diaphragm, abdominal, respiratory, facial, and back muscles a work out.

The contraction and release of these muscles leaves you feeling more relaxed. It even strengthens the heart. And it is so much more fun that sit-ups and push-ups.

Laughter increases your pain threshold.

The next time you have to have blood drawn or some other painful procedure, say something funny to the doctor.

The last time I had blood drawn, I said “You are going to be taking my blood? What happened--Dracula not available?

Laughter can even help you lose weight.

It can reduce food cravings. So don’t reach for that cookie, reach for a joke book instead. Also, if you are laughing, you can’t eat.

Laugh for 15 minutes, and you will burn 40 calories. Over the course of a year, you could lose nearly five pounds.

Dracula Enjoys a Good Laugh

A joke about Dracula can make a blood draw easier.
A joke about Dracula can make a blood draw easier. | Source

What Is Humor Therapy?

“Humor Therapy” is a term given to a process that claims to produce therapeutic effects using laughter. This field of medicine is called psycho-neuro-immunology—a $10 word for saying make sick people laugh.

Humor therapy goes as far back at the 14th century when the French surgeon Henri de Mondeville invited the friends and of his patients to tell them jokes to aid in their recovery from surgery. I believe this is where the phrase “bust a gut” comes from.

Norman Cousins popularized humor therapy in 1979 when he published his book Anatomy of an Illness. He claimed that ten minutes of laughter could give him two hours of pain relief. Mr. Cousins made a full recovery.

The effect of humor on the chronically ill was depicted in the hit movie, Patch Adams. The movie was based on the true story of Dr. Hunter Adams, an unorthodox doctor who believed that laughter was the best medicine.

Patch Adams had to fight to get recognition for his beliefs. But today, many hospitals are implementing humor centers and humor intervention in treating patients.

Duke University developed the "Duke Humor Project" which offers bedside humor therapy to cancer patients using books, audio, video, and clown props.

What Are the Emotional Benefits of Laughter?

Laughter improves our mental health as well as our physical health. Negative emotions such as anger, fear, and sadness can literally be laughed away. Laughter brings the focus away from anger, guilt, and other negative emotions in a more beneficial way than other mere distractions. Laughter restores our equanimity.

Laughter provides a physical release from intense emotions. Have you ever felt like you had to laugh or you’ll cry? After you have laughed at one of those moments, do you feel renewed and reinvigorated? The negative emotions have been swept away, and you are ready to deal with the situation in a rational way.

Here’s a quote from Kurt Vonnegut, the famous writer, on this subject. “Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterwards."

Laughter is one of my favorite stress management techniques. It’s free, you already know how to do it, and you can do it just about anywhere.

When you are having a terrible-horrible–no-good-very-bad-day, you can find a private place and laugh, either out loud or silently, depending on just how private that private place is. Laugh until you feel rejuvenated and ready to tackle the problems.

This technique can work even before you get stressed. Suppose you have to do something that you know you will find stressful in either your business or personal life. Just make sure you laugh before you get to that stressful situation. Do some fake laughing or find something funny to get you laughing—watch a funny video on YouTube, think about something funny you saw on TV last night, read a joke book.

Get yourself laughing. If your stomach is tied up in knots, laughter will unknot it. If all those butterflies are dancing around in your stomach, laughter will chase those butterflies right out of your stomach.

Everyone Loves a Clown

Clown around! All the world loves a clown.
Clown around! All the world loves a clown. | Source

What Are the Social Benefits of Laughter?

Laughter may be such an important trait because most mammals are social animals. We live in packs, families, communities. We need interaction with others. And laughter, according to social scientists, helps strengthen connections between the members of the pack or social group.

Laughter can diffuse an embarrassing situation, relieve a tense moment, improve interpersonal relationships, and enhance communication. It disrupts power struggles and breaks down barriers between people.

It can help a group to bond. It is a feedback loop. Laugh, bond; laugh more, bond more.

Whether you are meeting someone for the first time, getting a group together for a meeting, or giving a presentation, try to introduce a little humor in the first few minutes. Say something that arises from the situation and something that relates to the group.

Jokes or funny comments should make everyone feel good. Try to use self-deprecatory humor--the joke is on you. We need to avoid put-downs and mean spiritedness. If someone is getting all red-faced and feeling humiliated, that is a downer for everyone.

Humor helps us form social bonds when we tell stories about ourselves and our shared moments. These are the stories that remind us of our relationship to each other and our feeling of shared community.

How Can You Bring More Laughter into Your Life?

You can choose to bring more laughter and more happiness into your life. Happiness is not just something that happens to you; when you choose to laugh, you choose to be happy.

Here are some specific things you can do.

Join or start a laughter club.

You can get together with others in a “laughter club” and do what has come to be known as “laughter yoga.” It is not like the regular yoga with a bunch of complicated poses. Mainly, you just laugh.

If you are going to have a laughter session, don’t bother with jokes. They are not needed, and in fact, they detract from the session. You just start with the fake laughter, and soon enough it will become real laughter. You can try various laughter exercises. The video below will give you some ideas to get you started.

Try laughter yoga as an icebreaker before a meeting or at a party. It will get everyone into a good mood.

Find opportunities to laugh throughout the day.

Don't just wait for something to make you laugh. Create opportunities to laugh.

Get your day off to a good start! When you take a shower in the morning, laugh in the shower.

Think of funny things at odd moments during the day. Instead of thinking about your problems, recall a funny incident, a funny joke, or something funny that you saw in a movie or TV show. Replay it in your mind as you do chores, wait in line, or other activities that leave your mind free to wander.

Exaggerate your laughter.

Another way to get the benefits of laughter—Exaggerate your laughter!

When someone says something funny, don’t just smile or chuckle—take your response up a notch and laugh out loud. Laughter is contagious. Everyone around you will laugh more and that will get you laughing more also. Plus the person who said the funny thing will feel so appreciated.

If you are watching a funny show on TV and it makes you laugh, don’t just give a small half-hearted laugh. Give a howl! It’s just you and the TV.

Turn your complaints into funny stories.

Instead of complaining about life's frustrations, make up a funny story about them, and tell them to your friends.

You’ll laugh twice. Once as you find “the funny” in what has happened to you, and again when you actually tell it to your friends. And your story will make your friends laugh. So your bad experience has a silver lining—it is putting a lot more laughter into the world.

A Video about Laughter Yoga.

Laugh and the World Laughs with You!

Not only does laughter improve your health, your emotional state and your social interactions, but you can also use laughter to help others. Don’t be selfish keeping all the laughter to yourself. Let everyone have the benefits of laughter.

You can use laughter to elevate the mood of everyone around you, you can reduce their stress levels, lift their spirits, and perhaps improve the quality of the social interaction you experience with them.

Now do the fake laughing exercise again.

Ho Ho Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha Ha He He He He Hay Hay Hay Hay

Just for Fun--Take this Poll.

About how many times did you laugh in the last 24 hours?

See results

© 2014 Catherine Giordano

What are your thoughts on the subject of laughter?

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    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Wendy L. Henderson: Thanks for your comment. Laughter is the best medicine.

    • Wendy L Henderson profile image

      Wendy Henderson 2 years ago from PA

      I love that video. It is adorable. And I agree, laughter heals the soul.

    • Padmajah Badri profile image

      Padmajah Badri 2 years ago from India

      Laughter is best medicine for any worry.Your hub is a must read for every one .

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Charleslouch: Laughing and smiling is great for your health and helps to keep you in a positive state of mind. Thank you for your comment.

    • profile image

      Charleslouch 2 years ago

      A big smile is almost as relieving as laughter. I am a person who doesn't smile as long as I am concentrated, but when I free my mind (on a long bus ride for example) I start smiling.

      After smiling like this for like 10 minutes I can keep up with that positiv attitude for hours.

      When I am about to present my company somewhere I like to sit down beforehand and watch a slow, calming video like this one:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSymuou354c

      Like this I can begin my work with a natural smile on my face.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 3 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Thanks easy, (May I call you easy?) I'm so glad you enjoyed my hub about laughter. Thanks for the comment and the follow.

    • easylearningweb profile image

      Amelia Griggs 3 years ago

      Another delightful hub! I clicked Follow but my computer froze and I didn't get a chance to leave you dan mail.

      You have some wonderful hubs!

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 3 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Sara: I keep the baby video in my favorites as a stress reliever. I just have to smile and laugh when I se it.

    • Sara2901 profile image

      Sara2901 3 years ago

      Enjoyed the quad babies video especially after a long day at work. Thanks.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 3 years ago from Orlando Florida

      I'm glad you liked my latest hub. Whatever makes you laugh, do more of it.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      I used to watch Tom and Jerry as a child and remember the laughter it produced. Maybe need to watch it now for the exericse and health it brings to the body and soul. Lots of great facts on laughter and ones I am going to keep in mind. Thank you!

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 3 years ago from Orlando Florida

      I don't know about the theory, but your joke made me laugh. I'm sure Freud could explain it. I think I will get a hold of that book and write a hub on it. I claim dibs.

    • Swisstoons profile image

      Thomas F. Wuthrich 3 years ago from Michigan

      Thank you, Catherine. Of course, this wouldn't explain why one would laugh at his own jokes since he knows exactly what's coming. I've been writing gags for years and years...even longer than I've been a cartoonist. When I wrote for studio greeting card companies, I'd make a dummy card with a folded piece of paper to hide the punchline just the way a real card does. One of my earliest gags which I sold to the Barker Greeting Card Company featured a drawing of a very concerned girl on the outside with the copy, "When I heard you wuz sick, I said a little prayer. 'Lord,' I sez...

      And on the inside: Don't let ME catch it!!'

      I remember, I kept opening and reopening the card and laughing my head off each time...even though I knew exactly what I'd find on the inside. I must've done it twenty times. So, maybe my theory's got a few holes in it?

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 3 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Your theory is most likely correct. Years ago, as I teenager, I read Freud's huge tome,"Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious." I don't remember a lot, but I remember that part. Thank you for your comment. You have added value to this article.

    • Swisstoons profile image

      Thomas F. Wuthrich 3 years ago from Michigan

      Seems to me that at the root of humor is the unexpected. But why would the unexpected make us feel good? Perhaps it's not the unexpected, per se, that makes us laugh and feel good, but rather the immediate release from tension we experience when the unexpected proves to be harmless ...the entire process taking place in an instant. And maybe that's why, when jokes need to be explained, they aren't as funny as they would be otherwise. The release from tension isn't as pronounced. Just a theory.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      Yours too!

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 3 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Thanks annart.Your day sounds wonderful. May your life always be filled with laughter.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      The best day I've had recently was when my daughter and two granddaughters came down for the day. We laughed so much, partly because the little 3 year old is hilarious most of the time but also because we were all in such a good mood and everything was joked about. It's true that children laugh more; my grandson laughs suddenly for apparently no reason at all and that starts us all off!

      I know I feel so much better for laughing.

      Great hub, full of positive thoughts and suggestions.

      Ann

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 3 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Goatfury: I thought the clown was funny. Keep laughing. People find different things funny. If I get more negative comments on the clown tho, I'll change the picture.

    • goatfury profile image

      Andrew Smith 3 years ago from Richmond, VA

      I love to make sure to laugh at least 10 times every day! I feel so much better for it. You can't possibly be sad or depressed when you're laughing.

      Also: that clown is super creepy.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 3 years ago from Orlando Florida

      It is impossible to see that video of the quads without laughing, or at least smiling. I'm glad you liked the hub.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 3 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Nothing to argue with here. Laughter really IS the best medicine! (Sure do love that video of the quads laughing - reminds me of my babies, though I had mine one at a time!)

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