Jokes Aside: The Power of Laughter

“Laughter heals all wounds, and that’s one thing that everybody shares. No matter what you’re going through, it makes you forget about your problems. I think the world should keep laughing.” – Kevin Hart

Do you know how powerful smiling and laughing is?  While it takes 47 muscles to frown, it only takes 13 to smile! Think about what an immediate pick-me-up it is to hear a child giggle or laugh, or how amazing you feel after having a really good belly laugh about something hilarious. Smiling and laughing are powerful and simple tools we have access to that actually comes with a plethora of incredible benefits.

Life is stressful. At times you may feel overwhelmed, sad, scattered, spread thin. A simple, accessible remedy to these feelings is laughter. Yes, it can offer a respite from sadness and pain, laughter also gives you the courage and strength to find new sources of meaning and hope. Even in the most difficult of times, a smile or laugh can go a long way toward making you feel better (even just hearing laughter primes your brain and readies you to smile and join in the fun).

Believe it or not, research has found both short and long-term benefits to laughing.  Laughter immediately increases oxygen to the heart, lungs and muscles, boosts the endorphins that are released by your brain, improves your mood and reduces physical pain.  When you start to laugh, not only does it lighten your mental load, it actually induces physical changes in your body. Laughter is also good for you long term in that it improves your immune system, relieves pain, and strengthens relationships. The following are even more specific physical, mental and social benefits to laughing:

Physical health benefits

  • Boosts immunity by decreasing stress hormones and increasing immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies (thus improving your resistance to disease). 
  • Lowers stress hormones.
  • Prevents heart disease.
  • Enhances intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates the heart, lungs and muscles, and increases endorphins released by the brain.
  • Activates and relieves the stress response which increases and then decreases your heart rate and blood pressure, resulting in a calm, relaxed feeling.
  • Relieves pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers.
  • Relaxes the whole body by relieving physical tension and stress, which leaves muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.
  • Protects the heart by improving the function of blood vessels and increasing blood flow, thus protecting you against heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems.
  • Burns calories! While it is no replacement for going to the gym, it is kind of awesome 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!

Mental health benefits

  • Adds joy to life.
  • Reduces anxiety and tension.
  • Relieves stress.
  • Improves mood. 
  • Strengthens resilience.
  • Soothes tension. 
  • Promotes mental clarity. 
  • Increases personal satisfaction. 
  • Facilitates improved coping with difficult situations. 
  • Improves interactions and connections with other people.
  • Lightens anger’s heavy load. 

Social benefits

  • Strengthens relationships.
  • Attracts others to us.
  • Enhances teamwork.
  • Helps diffuse conflict (nothing diffuses anger and conflict faster than a shared laugh)!
  • Promotes group bonding.
  • Lengthens life? A study in Norway found that people with a strong sense of humor outlived those who don’t laugh as much. The difference was particularly notable for those battling cancer.

Laughter is a natural part of life that is innate and inborn. Infants begin smiling during the first weeks of life and laugh out loud within months of being born.  Yet children laugh considerably more than adults–likely because life tends to be more serious and stressful, causing laughter to be more infrequent. By seeking out more opportunities for humor and laughter, you can improve your emotional health, strengthen your relationships, find greater happiness—and even add years to your life!

Since you now see all of the amazing benefits to laughing, how can you create more opportunities to laugh? With so many streaming services at your fingertips, it is fairly easy to watch a funny movie, TV show, or YouTube video. You can invite friends or co-workers out to a comedy club. Read the funny pages of the newspaper, seek out funny people, tell a good joke or a funny story, check out your bookstore’s humor section, host game night with friends, play with a pet, goof off with children, and make time for fun activities like bowling, miniature golfing, karaoke, video games. Begin by setting aside special times to seek out humor and laughter, and build from there. Eventually, you will want to incorporate humor and laughter into the fabric of your life, finding it naturally in everything.

Laughter is strong medicine. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humor lightens your burdens, inspires hope, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded and present. The physical, mental and social benefits to frequent laughter are staggering, and you and I would be silly to not tap into those benefits more often. So, all jokes aside, let yourself have a good belly laugh today simply because it is good for your health!

Melissa Cluff is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in North Texas, providing face-to-face and telehealth therapy options to clients in Texas.


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Melissa Cluff, MS, LMFT, CSAT

Melissa Cluff is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in North Texas, providing face-to-face and telehealth therapy options to clients in Texas.