How many times have you quietly chuckled to yourself while watching a movie or typed out “hahaha” into a text message in response to a friend? We hardly think about laughing before we do it, though it happens constantly through the day; and yet, it’s helpful to us socially, physiologically, and emotionally. What is it about laughing that makes it the best medicine? There are a number of reasons why it’s so beneficial, especially during times in our lives that prove to be challenging.
- Laughing makes us feel good – Studies show that laughing releases a large number of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. In fact, these studies show that laughing releases these endorphins via our opioid receptors, creating a euphoric effect. One reason that opioid pain medications are highly-addictive is due to their ability to pharmacologically produce this same effect. Additionally, this effect can assist in physical pain relief much like pain-relieving medications do, without the negative side-effects. Laughter actually chemically fosters feeling good for people. There is also research that suggests that laughing helps with the release of serotonin, which is the same aim of many anti-depressants..
- Laughter is “contagious” and helps us bond with others – While we laugh at movies and the like, most often we laugh during a conversation, as often as once every 10 minutes. When we laugh, we experience our own rush of endorphins and it encourages whoever we are with to laugh as well, allowing them to experience their own piece of momentary euphoria. It’s a tool we use to communicate: expressing happiness with another’s presence, showing we are relaxed in their company, sending a signal that we are playful. It is a non-verbal form of emotional expression, simpler than words at times. When surveyed, many men and women often list a sense of humor to be an attractive trait in a partner, and older couples that have spent decades married suggest that laughing together is a key component to longevity.
- Laughter helps our brain connectivity – When we laugh, it is generally a response to something. Perhaps we heard a joke or something we related to in a comic way. In order to make these connections, our brains have to work to understand the nature of a funny line or joke to recall a memory. Laughing is also something that we need to interpret others doing. There are many different types of laughter, from an embarrassed chuckle to a deep belly laugh to a nervous giggle. When we hear laughter, our brains kick into gear working to uncover what it’s trying to communicate.
- Laughter relieves stress – Laughing also releases tension from our bodies and minds. When it comes to our bodies, laughing can actually improve circulation, as it increases our heart rate slightly, and relieves muscle tension. When you laugh you breathe in additional oxygen, making it good for your internal organs like your lungs and heart. It also activates and then soothes your body’s stress response, the result of which is relaxation. The additional rush of endorphins and serotonin helps to calm emotions with the body’s natural happy chemicals. Even the verbal expression of a laugh, like a smaller and much less aggressive form of primal scream therapy, is a stress reliever, helping us relax.
- Laughter can be good for our heart (in more ways than one) – While in an obvious way, laughter can help us feel lighthearted and happy. Studies have shown that laughter is good for the blood vessels and arteries, leading to better heart health and blood pressure. Decreasing the body’s stress response can help decrease inflammation, a leading cause of cardiovascular issues and immune system problems.
- Laughter has virtually no negative side effects – With all of these potential benefits, there aren’t any real drawbacks to laughing. Of course, most people have laughed at the wrong moment or at a joke we perhaps should not have; but overall, there is little to no evidence to suggest that laughter is anything except beneficial for us. There are even humor researchers that seek to even better understand the actual medical benefit to laughter.
There are times in life where nearly everyone gets caught up in the woes of the world and the negative things we see in the news. These are the times it’s most important to find reasons to smile and laugh, even if just for a short while, in order to enjoy the many benefits that can be found from such a simple action. Most importantly, laughing fosters that bond between other people, a connection that all humans need to survive challenging times. Whether it’s choosing your favorite comedy for family movie night, or reminiscing on joyful and funny times of the past, finding ways to laugh can help us get through the hardest of times, together.
Ashley Addiction Treatment is an innovative treatment program located on Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. Ashley provides support for professionals seeking help with addiction. We are able to help people with co-occurring disorders and offer confidential treatment programs to meet your needs. Please reach out to us today at 800-799-4673.