Laughter really is the best medicine

For optimal health, eat your fruits and vegetables, get some exercise and laugh out loud every day!

People today are becoming more health conscious. Many turn to Michigan State University Extension to find out the latest and greatest information on eating healthy, moving more, keeping food safe and reducing anger and stress – all of which have health benefits. However, there is another way to help you lead a healthier life: have you ever heard that old saying, “Laughter is the best medicine?” Turns out it just might be truer than ever. Recently, researchers across many domains looked at the effects laughter can have on our emotional and physical health.

Did you know that humor can occur without laughter and laughter can occur without humor? That is because humor is a cognitive process and laughter is a physiological process. Since humor is a thinking process, everyone has different ideas of what is funny and what isn’t. However, even if you fake laugh, without anything humorous happening, you are getting some physiological benefits.

Physical benefits gained from a good belly laugh:

  • Expansion of blood vessel lining increasing blood flow to the body
  • Elevated pain threshold through the release of endorphins
  • Accelerated heart rate and cardiovascular workout
  • Internal heart massage
  • Boosts immune system function
  • Increases circulation for better air flow to your brain and body

Social and emotional benefits gleaned by giddy gleeful giggles:

  • Reducing agitation and stress
  • Releases endorphins for a boost in mood
  • Raise your self-efficacy (your ability to organize and carry out actions related to achieve a goal)
  • Helps people to feel more resilient to everyday and unexpected challenges in life
  • Strengthen connections with other people – because laughter is contagious

Next time you make a check list of healthy habits for a better life, be sure to add “laugh every day” to your to do list. You will find yourself reaping the physical and social/emotional benefits of bountiful laughter. So, go ahead, now just giggle a little – it’s good for you!

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