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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 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]
Laughter Boosts Mood
One of the major reasons why laughing is good for you is because it promotes positive emotional states and eases 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 proved to have 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]
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? Is laughing good for you even if it’s fake?
This may surprise you: 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.
So 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.
You can also look for settings that promote laughter. There are actually organized groups of people who get together just to laugh.
In laughing yoga classes, for example, you’re led through a series of exercises that initiate and promote laughing. Or try searching for a laughter club, where people get together to share jokes and enjoy some laughter together.
Share Your Experience
So, what do you think? Have humor and laughter benefited you, physically and mentally? Share your experience with laughing yoga or laughter therapy in the comments section below.
FINDING THE HUMOR OUT THERE
Jokes are everywhere: Perhaps you get a steady source of yuks from your circle of friends. And most certainly you’ll find laughter from TV and film sources; at comedy clubs and on recordings; in books and in magazines.
In fact, look no further than the long-popular Reader’s Digest, which offers a seemingly never-ending supply of family humor. The magazine’s website includes one area that serves as a veritable joke digest. Find it by clicking here. You won’t have to read long before you find yourself smiling. (Stop us if you’ve heard this one: “I had my credit card stolen the other day, but I didn’t bother to report it because the thief spends less than my wife.”)
 Altern Ther Health Med. 2010 Nov-Dec;16(6):56-64.
 Can Fam Physician. 2009 Oct;55(10):965-7.
 Complement Ther Med. 2011 Jun;19(3):170-7.
 Psychol Bull. 2001 Jul;127(4):504-19.
 J Psychosoc Nurs Ment Health Serv. 2004 Mar;42(3):18-25.
 Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2014 Jan;19(1):36-40.
Originally published in 2014, this post is regularly updated.