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8 Health Benefits of Laughter

8 Health Benefits of Laughter

Is there anything better than a contagious giggle that you absolutely can’t control? (Ok, maybe not so good in school or church.) Laughter works wonderfully well in the moment, but it also has some surprising long-term health benefits. In the book A Better Brain at Any Age: The Holistic Way to Improve Your Memory, Reduce Stress, and Sharpen Your Wits (Conari Press, 2009), author Sondra Kornblatt explores how laughter can truly make you feel better.

She writes that the new field of gelotology is exploring the benefits of laughter. It was brought to the public’s awareness in Norman Cousins’ memoir Anatomy of an Illness. Cousins found that comedies, like those of the Marx Brothers, helped him feel better and get some pain-free sleep. That’s because laughter helps the pituitary gland release its own pain-suppressing opiates.

What can laughter do?:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Increase vascular blood flow and oxygenation of the blood
  • Give a workout to the diaphragm and abdominal, respiratory, facial, leg, and back muscles
  • Reduce certain stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline
  • Increase the response of tumor- and disease-killing cells such as Gamma-interferon and T-cells
  • Defend against respiratory infections–even reducing the frequency of colds–by immunoglobulon in saliva.
  • Increase memory and learning; in a study at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, humor during instruction led to increased test scores
  • Improve alertness, creativity, and memory

Humor and creativity work in similar ways, says humor guru William Fry, M.D., of Stanford University–by creating relationships between two disconnected items, you engage the whole brain.

Humor works quickly. Less than a half-second after exposure to something funny, and electrical wave moves through the higher brain functions of the cerebral cortex. The left hemisphere analyzes the words and structures of the joke; the right hemisphere “gets” the joke; the visual sensory area of the occipital lobe creates images; the limbic (emotional) system makes you happier; and the motor sections make you smile or laugh.

So let’s laugh. What makes you laugh? Tell us your favorite funny movie, or how about a good joke?

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.


+ add your own
6:08PM PDT on Oct 7, 2014

I'd never thought about how laughter can help learning but as a teacher I can see the logic! Thanks for the article

5:53AM PDT on Jun 21, 2014

Feeling rundown? Try laughing more. The fact cannot be denied and laughter is truly the best medicine. I always like to visit laughter clubs and Gotham Comedy club is one of my favorites. They know how to shed all your stress within minutes.

5:27AM PDT on Jun 3, 2014

I wish I had time to laugh...

2:38AM PDT on Mar 11, 2014

No content is comparable and admirable then this mentioned for the explanations, a must one to read for everyone.

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8:12AM PST on Nov 16, 2013

All great and thanks, luckely I'm able to laugh a lot :)

2:42AM PDT on Oct 29, 2013

That's a nice article. Laughter truly helps a lot, especially when it comes to living a positive life and enjoying life. Proverbs 17:22 ; A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones....

1:40AM PDT on Oct 9, 2013

Great article!

Laughter truly is the best, easiest, cheapest, and let's not forget, most fun way to nurture overall well-being.

The best part is, the body doesn't know the difference between real laughter and fake laughter, so you reap the same health benefits (mu- ha ha ha!!!)

This is my list of favorite types of laughter:

4:15PM PDT on Sep 19, 2013

That's why I watch comedies

12:18PM PDT on Aug 27, 2013

Laughing makes you happy. Why do you need a reason to laugh right?

There's a little known laughter meditation that I try almsot everyday. It's a great way to start your day.


1:20AM PDT on Aug 3, 2013

Well, apart memory problems, I'm an extremely healthy person. :)
Thank you very much Melissa!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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