Here's why laughter is the best medicine
From reducing stress to boosting your immune system, there are many health benefits of busting out some laughs.
You’ve probably heard the old saying “Laughter is the best medicine.” But it’s more than just an old wives’ tale — laughing can really benefit your health.
“Just a few minutes of laughter a day can improve your health in more ways than you might realize,” explains Maria Heveran, a physician assistant at Geisinger’s Lewisburg clinic.
A giggle a day keeps the doctor away
Laughing not only feels good, it is good for you. This “medicine” is fast, free and can be taken anywhere. Here are some of the powerful health benefits a bout of laughter can deliver.
Have you ever wondered why laughing literally feels great? When you laugh, your body releases feel-good chemicals called endorphins.
“Releasing endorphins can help increase the body’s natural painkilling response,” says Heveran. “This helps with chronic pain and can improve your mood.”
Those extra endorphins do more than give you a little lift — they can also reduce stress. “Laughter is a valuable coping mechanism when we’re feeling stressed,” Heveran notes. “A hearty belly laugh can help start the day on a positive note and finish it on a relaxing one.”
Boosting your immune system
When you giggle, chortle or guffaw, you reduce your body’s production of stress hormones, like cortisol. “It can also activate infection-fighting cells,” says Heveran. “By managing stress with laughter, you’ll help fight off stress reactions in the body.”
Increasing blood flow to internal organs
Each time you laugh, you breathe more deeply. This sends more oxygen into your lungs and helps your heart pump oxygen-rich blood throughout your body. Increased oxygen promotes healthy cell growth and allows your organs to work more efficiently, helping you feel your best.
Feeling tense? A few minutes of hearty laughter can reduce tension in the body and make you feel calmer.
Ways to add laughter to your day
Adding a few more chuckles into your routine is easier than you think. Here are five ways to get started:
1. Watch something funny
Whether it’s a favorite TV show, a stand-up comedy special or silly cat videos, make time to enjoy something you find humorous.
You can even make a ritual out of it — make a snack and curl up into your favorite comfy spot a few times a week. “If you don’t have time to watch a full TV show or movie, try a funny video or commercial instead,” suggests Heveran.
2. Share a joke
Whether it’s a groan-worthy Dad joke or a series of bad puns, share a few jokes to brighten someone’s day. Or, if you’re the one in need of some laughs, ask a loved one to regale you with a few funnies.
3. Hang out with a pet
Our furry, feathered and scaly pals are great at delivering laughs. Chase your companion as they scamper around the house, break out the laser pointer or play with their favorite toy.
4. Have a dance party
Nothing unleashes silliness like an impromptu dance party. Fire up your favorite tunes and start moving. If you live with others, get the family involved and dance badly on purpose. Or, if you really want to show off, bust out your best moves.
“Not only will it get you laughing, you’ll get some exercise, too,” says Heveran.
5. Chat with a friend
The next time you find yourself in need of a few guffaws, consider reaching out to a pal who cracks you up. You might swap funny pictures or remember a comical moment you shared. Whether through a video call or a few lighthearted text messages, connecting with a friend can add more laughter to your life.
Try to look on the bright side
In addition to offering benefits to your physical health, laughter benefits your mental and emotional well-being and can help you cope with the stresses of everyday life.
“Instead of ruminating about a stressful situation or minor mistake, try creating a new habit of joking about it,” Heveran suggests. “Finding humor in life can help you see things in a different light and reduce your stress about the circumstance.”
Meet Maria Heveran, PA-C
Learn about primary care at Geisinger
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