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Getting together with friends and family is a wonderful time to catch up, share stories, and hopefully get some good laughs in. But is the good story or joke that gets the whole gang roaring with laughter just adding fun to the dinner table—or is laughing good for you as well?
Research shows that laughter doesn’t just make for a good time; it also has wide array of physical and mental health benefits, too. So keep on finding the humor in life—and keep on laughing. You may even consider joining a laughter club or practicing laughing yoga.
Medical Uses of Laughter
Laughter has physiological, psychological, social, and quality-of-life benefits for patients in a variety of medical settings. Benefits of laughter are reported in the areas of geriatrics, oncology, pediatrics, psychiatry, hospice care, rehabilitation, surgery, dentistry, critical care, and many more.[2,3]
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Laughter Boosts Mood
One of the major reasons why laughing is good for you is because it promotes positive emotional states and reduces stress. Research has proven, in fact, that laughing leads to reductions in stress and anxiety while improving mood, self-esteem, and coping skills.
In one study, the practice of laughter yoga had beneficial effects on sleep, anxiety, depression, and social function in nursing school students with high levels of stress. Mental health in the elderly population and those in nursing homes can be particularly improved by laughter.[7,8]
Physiological Benefits of Laughing
Laughter affects various systems in the body, including the muscular, cardiovascular, respiratory, endocrine, immune, and nervous systems. The physiological effects of laughter are many.
- Decrease stress hormones
- Exercise muscles
- Improve breathing and respiration
- Stimulate circulation
- Improve immune function
- Increase pain tolerance
- Enhance mental function[3,5]
Some specific conditions that can benefit from laughter include bronchial asthma, diabetic neuropathy, and skin conditions like dermatitis.[9,10]
Is Laughing Good for You Even If It’s Fake?
Have you ever laughed at someone’s joke just to be polite, even though you didn’t find it funny? While our mind knows the difference between genuine laughter and when we’re faking it, it turns out that the body can’t differentiate between the two.
To take advantage of the health benefits of laughing, you don’t necessarily need to find something humorous; making yourself laugh has the same physical benefits. And you might be surprised how easy a forced laugh turns into spontaneous, authentic, all-out laughter.
While the idea might sound strange, there are many organized groups of people that get together just to laugh. In laughing yoga classes, for example, you’re led through a series of exercises that initiate and promote laughing in a group setting. Or try searching for a laughter club, where people get together to share jokes and enjoy some laughter together.
Share Your Experience
Do you love to laugh? Do you think humor and laughter benefit you, both physically and mentally? Share your experience with laughing yoga or laughter therapy in the comments section below.
Originally published in 2014 and updated.