We’ve all heard the saying “laughter is the best medicine,” and now, research backs it up. A good chuckle may actually be good for your physical and mental health.
Good for the body
Over the years, researchers have learned this about a good belly laugh:
It lowers your blood pressure. While you’re laughing, your blood pressure first rises. But after that hearty ha-ha, your blood pressure drops to a level that’s healthier than before you laughed.
- It works your muscles. The exercise of laughing gives your abdomen and diaphragm a good workout. The muscles of your thorax, neck, shoulders, face and scalp also benefit.
- It boosts your immune system. By decreasing stress hormones, humor and laughter increase infection-fighting antibodies.
- It eases pain. Laughter triggers your body to release endorphins, which reduce pain.
Laughter and a sense of humor also may help cut your risk for heart disease, says Michael Miller, M.D., a heart disease prevention specialist in Baltimore. In a 2005 study, he gauged the effect of emotions on cardiovascular health when he showed both funny and scary movies to 20 healthy men and women. Dr. Miller found that laughter causes the muscles in the walls of the blood vessels to relax, increasing blood flow. “At the very least,” he says, “laughter offsets the impact of mental stress,” which is harmful to the blood vessels.
Mental health too
Humor also is a great stress-buster. It can help you relax and temporarily forget your troubles. Humor helps you let go and understand your emotions so that you can become more flexible and get a broader outlook on life. Humor also can improve your mood, briefly lift an emotional depression and help in coping with difficult situations. And a sense of humor attracts others who want to be around cheerful, positive people.
You can decide to find humor almost anywhere. When you’ve rushed out the door trying to make that appointment only to end up stuck in traffic, laugh at the absurdity of it instead of flaring up. Just like regular exercise, ample sleep and a nourishing diet, your good health can profit from it.
Vitality / Issue 3, 2009
CareFirst / Blue Cross Blue Shield