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Does laughter really reduce stress?

I think we all just instinctively know that laughter is good for us.  Did you know that laughter releases endorphins which has been proven to relieve stress?  I decided to see how much laughter and humor has helped us live better lives.

I am amazed by what I found!  

There are so many articles about laughter literally saving our lives.  All of a sudden - this is a topic to take “seriously” with regards to your health.  🤣

 

PHYSICAL EFFECTS OF LAUGHTER

 

Let’s start with a medical angle - the physical benefits to the body. These are scientifically proven in article after article on dozens and dozens of websites.  Here is a summary of my favorites.

Triggers the release of endorphins: Endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers.  By laughing, you can release endorphins, which can help ease chronic pain and make you feel good all over.

Reduces stress hormone levels: Laughter reduces the level of stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline), dopamine and growth hormones.  Stressed? Find something to laugh about! 

Lowers blood pressure:  Laughter, again the release of endorphins, counteracts the negative effects of stress hormones which can lower your blood pressure. Keep laughing, it just keeps getting better.

Boosts Immune system:  T-cells are specialized immune system cells just waiting in your body for activation.  When you’re stressed, negative thoughts can turn into chemical reactions that decrease your immunity to sickness.  When you laugh, you activate T-cells that immediately begin to help you fight off sickness and the physical effects of stress.  

Next time your sick kid is coming at you coughing and hacking – start laughing hard and fast 😊

Stimulates many organs: When you laugh, you take in more oxygen-rich air.  This stimulates your lungs, heart and muscles. 

Relaxes your muscles:  When you are stressed, your body tenses up and can cause you to feel stiff.  A good hearty laugh can relieve physical tension in the body and relax the muscles for up to 45 minutes. 

Works your Abs: You can literally tone your abs.  This is my favorite.  After 3 kids, I can’t even find my abs.  When you are laughing, the muscles in your stomach expand and contract, just like when you intentionally exercise your abs.  A good belly laugh even works out the shoulders, leaving muscles more relaxed afterward.

Improves Cardiac Health: Laughter gets your heart pumping, improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems. 

Laugh to your heart’s content – I am cracking myself up now. 

Helps with weight loss:  A common side effect of chronic stress is weight gain.  Laughing not only reduces the stress hormones that cause weight gain, but it also burns calories.  One study found that laughing for 10 to 15 minutes a day can burn approximately 40 calories – which could be enough to lose three or four pounds over the course of a year. Another study showed that laughing burns a similar amount of calories per hour as walking at a slow to moderate pace

What is the real question here? If you watch a VERY funny movie, how much ice cream can you eat and not gain any weight?  I will be investigating this. Actually, I am doing this investigation right now. 

Per heathline.com – A 155 pound person burns approximately 232 calories walking at a moderate (3.5mph) pace on a flat surface for one hour.  A 205 pound person will burn 354 calories per hour under the same conditions.  Now ice cream calories really vary – Haagen-Dazs’ is 1200 calories a pint, Ben and Jerry’s about 1000 calories a pint.  Breyers has a new line called Breyers Delights which is promoting 260-330 calories a pint.  I have some Enlightened brand ice cream that is pretty good that has only 280 calories a pint.  

My investigative conclusion is, if you get the right ice cream and laugh for at least 1 1/2 hours of the movie you are watching,  there will be no caloric evidence of that ice cream and you will have the other added physical and mental benefits from laughter. (Disclosure – This is NOT intended as medical advice in any way – this is humor)

Produces a General Sense of Well-Being: Laughter can increase your overall sense of well-being.  Doctors have found that people who have a positive outlook on life tend to fight diseases better than people who are  more negative.  The Mayo Clinic stated: Laughter can help lessen your depression and anxiety and may make you feel happier.  Obvious understatement but an official scientific statement.

 

MENTAL EFFECTS OF LAUGHTER

The mental benefits of laughter span the whole gamut of mental health.  Here are some of my favorites.

Distraction:  Laughter brings the focus away from anger, guilt, stress, and negative emotions in a more beneficial way than other mere distractions.  Laughter stops distressing emotions as you can’t feel anxious, angry, or sad when you’re laughing.  

Perspective:  Our response to stressful events can be altered by whether we view something as a threat or a challenge.  Humor can give us a more lighthearted perspective and help us view events as challenges in a more realistic and less threatening light.  A humorous perspective creates a psychological distance, which can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and diffuse conflict. 

Stress Relief: Chronic stress is harmful to your health and humor is a tool used by the brain to help manage and redirect a hyper-stress response.  That’s one reason why a good belly laugh brings such feeling of relief.  We all know the benefits to ourselves, our family and those around us, when we have successful stress relief.  Having a good laugh right before your kid does something dumb could "save his life" from the difference in your reaction.  

Recharge:  Laughter helps you relax and recharge, as it reduces stress and increases energy, enabling you to stay focused and accomplish more.   

Social Benefits:  People want to be around positivity and instinctively gravitate towards laughter – even if they are laughing at you – they feel better and you have made a new friend. 

Strengthens relationships: A shared laugh with friends, family or a coworker can help you feel more connected to that person and form a strong and lasting bond.  Humor is also a powerful way to heal past disagreements or resentments.  When you really look at the power of this one, you realize how much more you could use this in your day to day life. 

People don’t get enough laughter in their lives.  In fact, one study suggests that healthy children may laugh as much as 400 times per day, but adults tend to laugh only 15 times per day.  – Oh crap, I don’t think I even laughed 5 times yesterday.

The power of laughter has become so popular that there is even laughter yoga.  Apparently you laugh deliberately in the class as a group until you are laughing uncontrollably.  Sign me up!

 

 

This answers the age old question – Are they laughing because they feel good? 

No, they feel good because they are laughing.  It puts a whole new light on life. 

Quick, find something to have a good laugh about and have a great day!!

 

Next week we are going to tackle all the different ways to get us laughing more each day. We better make some more funny socks!     

 

 

 Resources:

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/laughter-is-the-best-medicine.htm

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456

https://www.usa.edu/blog/how-laughter-can-relieve-stress/

https://www.gaiam.com/blogs/discover/7-health-benefits-of-laughter

https://www.verywellmind.com/the-stress-management-and-health-benefits-of-laughter-3145084

https://thelearningcorp.com/brainwire/laugh-a-little-how-laughter-helps-our-brain-reduce-stress/