The 10 health benefits of laughter - medical - 2023



They say that for every 10 minutes of conversation, people laugh about 7 times. And is that laughter is an evolutionary strategy that allows us to establish deeper social connections, a way that humans have of showing good intentions to other people.

But laughter is not something unique to humans. In fact, chimpanzees also produce sounds that, although different from ours, fulfill the same social function. For all primates, laughter makes us feel part of a group and helps us to show that we feel comfortable in a specific environment.

We laugh all the time. Sometimes for stories, jokes, tickling and even as a protection strategy against tense situations or for events that in theory are not "funny" but that activate our sense of humor.

But is that in addition to the clear social component of laughter and laughter, did you know that laughing has multiple benefits for both physical and mental health? And reviewing its effects on the body will be the task in today's article.

Why do we laugh?

Humans laugh at absolutely anything. Each person is made to laugh in certain situations because laughter is closely linked to the brain, and each of us undergoes a different brain development throughout life. Similarly, the brain also determines how often and how hard we laugh.

But what is it that makes us laugh? We laugh because the brain triggers a cascade of hormonal reactions that end with a feeling of well-being in our body and that activate a series of muscles in the rib cage.

Let's see it in parts. When we are in our day to day or we listen to a story, the brain makes assumptions about what is going to happen next. If everything goes according to plan, nothing “strange” will happen within us. But the moment something happens that we perceive as an incongruity, something out of the ordinary and that, whether rationally or irrationally we interpret as "funny", the brain rewards itself by producing dopamine.

Dopamine is a hormone that, once released by order of the brain, travels through our blood vessels. His production occurs not only for funny moments, but also when eating, having sex, doing sports and, ultimately, everything that is "pleasant" to us. Either way, once dopamine is circulating through our body, it begins to change our physiology so that we feel good. For this reason, it is known as the “happiness hormone”.

And one of the effects that dopamine has is that it modulates the activity of the muscles of the rib cage. Literally, dopamine causes the muscles of the chest to contract, which translates into pressure in the lungs that ends with the gasps, screams, choking or snoring typical of everyone's laughter.

Laughter is born from the pressure in the chest muscles that causes dopamine to flow through our body. The sound of laughter does not come from the mouth or the throat. You just have to stop and realize that when we laugh, there is no movement of the tongue or lips as there is with the rest of the sounds we make. Everything happens in the rib cage.

What are the health benefits of laughing?

We have already seen the social meaning of laughing and what reactions occur in our body that lead to emitting the sounds of laughter. But perhaps one of the most important and at the same time underrated factors of laughter is the benefits it has for our health.

And it is that not only does it improve our mood, but it also has positive effects on physical health in many different ways. Next we will see the main benefits that laughing has for the body.

In fact, for a few years the term "laughter therapy" has been established, which consists of using laughter as a tool that seeks to improve people's mental and emotional health through activities and exercises that encourage them to laugh.

1. Lowers blood pressure

Laughter has positive effects for the entire cardiovascular system as it is capable of lowering our blood pressure. And it is that despite the fact that while we laugh our heart rate increases and, therefore, our blood pressure increases, when we relax the opposite effect occurs.

And it is that when you stop laughing, the walls of the blood vessels "loosen", which leads to an improvement in blood circulation and, consequently, to a reduction in blood pressure. Therefore, laughing is a good strategy to prevent hypertension and reduce the risk of suffering from all kinds of cardiovascular diseases, which represent the main cause of death in the world.

2. Oxygenates the body

As we have said, laughter occurs inside the rib cage. And is that laughing makes the muscles in the lungs work much faster for the duration of the laugh itself. With each inhalation more oxygen is absorbed and, in addition, as the heart rate is higher, it is achieved that the organs and tissues receive more oxygen than normal. Therefore, laughter enhances the respiratory capacity and improves the oxygenation of our body, including the vital organs.

3. Burns calories

When we laugh, we activate up to 400 different muscles. And it is that laughter is, almost, another form of sport. In fact, it is estimated that with about 100 laughs, the same calories are burned as doing 15 minutes of cycling. This, in addition, is linked to a subsequent muscle relaxation that contributes to the well-being that laughing gives us. Laughing can help us stay in shape and, in addition, it works muscles that are normally more inactive.

4. Boost the immune system

The hormonal changes that occur in our body while we laugh could have a stimulating effect on the immune system. And it is that recent studies show that laughter could enhance the production of antibodies and the general activity of the cells of the immune system, that is, it can make us more resistant to the attack of pathogens.

Laughter can make our body more effective in detecting bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, etc, as when starting the processes focused on neutralizing and eliminating them from the body. This would make us less sensitive to getting sick.

5. Reduce stress

When we laugh the body stops making as much cortisol, a hormone that is related to both stress and other low moods. And it is that laughter can make us reduce our stress levels. In fact, it even has analgesic properties, which means that it makes us more resistant to pain.

6. Improve memory

Laughing can improve our memory in the sense that events that happen while we are happy and especially when laughter is involved, our brain has more emotional ties that empower us to remember better what we have lived. Laughter and humor in general increase the number of connections that our brain makes while it "learns."

7. Boost creativity

Due to both the effects on oxygenation of organs (including the brain) and the reduction of stress hormones, as well as the chemical and hormonal processes that occur within us, people who laugh more frequently tend to have, according to different studies , the most active properties linked to creativity in the brain. Laughter improves brain health, making it more active.

8. Lowers cholesterol levels

When we laugh, our body stimulates the production of lipoproteins, molecules that circulate in the blood and that help lower the levels of "bad" cholesterol. This, together with the reduction of blood pressure, contributes to a correct cardiovascular health and reduces the risk of suffering from all kinds of pathologies linked to the obstruction of blood vessels.

9. Produces endorphins

When we laugh, our brain stimulates the production of endorphins, which are hormones linked to the feeling of well-being. Laughter makes us happier and the more we laugh, the more our mood will be enhanced. This, together with the reduction of stress hormones, makes laughter strengthen our mental health, making us feel more full of vitality and face the future more optimistically. The effects on hormones of this type last even up to an hour after you have laughed.

10. Increase collagen production

Collagen is an essential protein for the body that is present in many different organs and tissues, as it provides resistance, flexibility and elasticity. When we laugh, its production is stimulated. And this is directly linked to a reduction in the signs of aging, as the health of the skin is promoted. In addition, it helps reduce constipation since it enhances the correct functionality of the intestines.

Bibliographic references

  • Louie, D., Brooks, K., Frates, E. (2016) “The Laughter Prescription: A Tool for Lifestyle Medicine”. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 10 (4).
  • Robinson, L., Smith, M., Segal, J. (2019) "Laughter is the Best Medicine". HelpGuide.
  • Yim, J. (2016) “Therapeutic Benefits of Laughter in Mental Health: A Theoretical Review”. The Tohoku Journal of Experimental Medicine, 239 (3), 243-249.