The day has gone from bad to worse. You slept through a class, spilled raspberry vinaigrette all over your white blouse and you just found out that there isn’t a new episode of Glee on. This is an appropriate time to evaluate the past 24 hours and recognize that these collective negative moments all constitute one thing: a bad day. Although—hopefully—they’re not frequent occurences in your life, they do happen. Luckily, there is a way to ensure that these days improve immensely: just laugh. Yes, laugh. Tell a joke, watch Youtube videos or simply text the funniest friend in your contact list. Seems almost too simple, right? How can laughing be the cure to a bad day or depressed mood? The answer is that laughing is as healthy for your body and mind as it is enjoyable. On the surface, laughing seems like a simple action that is over as quickly as it started, but in reality the benefits from laughing extend far beyond the excited mood it puts you in—they are also medically beneficial for both your mind and body, even in the long term!
To begin with, laughing has many physical benefits for your body. When you laugh, your body actually increases its ability to fight off infections and improve the state of your immune system, as it stimulates the production of infection-fighting antibodies. Furthermore, the physical action of laughing strengthens the use of the blood vessels in the heart, increasing your chances of preventing heart disease. Bottom line, laughter prevents diseases! Furthermore, since laughing is an aerobic action, it increases the use of the diaphragm, especially when the laugh is focused in the stomach. As a result, laughing furthers the diaphragm’s ability to take in more oxygen in one breath—did we mention it strengthens your abs in the process too? Finally, when the laugh itself is rather large and lengthy, the lungs are forced to push out more oxygen from the pulmonic area, which produces a cleansing effect and aids in the maintenance of the lungs.
For all of the physical gains from laughing, there are even more psychological benefits. Stress in particular doesn’t stand a chance in the way of laughter—studies have shown that when a person laughs, their stress levels actually decrease. As we all know, less stress equals an overall happier human being that is more capable of focusing on and enjoying the moment. Laughter also produces extra endorphins (the ‘happy” hormone). Just like when you workout, the release of these extra “cheery” hormones causes anxiety and fear levels to drop. In essence, just one good giggle can make you happier, less stressed, and braver than before, when you were in a humorless state.
In case you’re still not convinced, laughter also helps those around you. Laughing is contagious; as cliché as that sounds, it is actually true. When someone laughs, it causes their audience to perceive them as more relaxed and approachable, which in turn promotes conversation (which leads to more endorphins being released due to social activity!). When people connect over humor, it promotes team unity and collective work. This is why often when people are meeting for the first time in a group, or in a new class, you will be asked to share a “funny fact” or participate in a comical icebreaker. Naturally, there is little awkwardness present in the situation (in reference to earlier human circumstances), but the laughter signals that any sign of danger has passed (this goes back to how we as humans are programmed!).
Now that you know just how great laughing can be, for both your physical and mental health, get out there and get silly! You will find that people are drawn to you, and that you yourself are more energized and happy. As stated in the movie Connie and Carla in reference to laugh lines,“do yourself a favor, let your eyes crinkle, let your face wrinkle.”
Sources: Laughter is the Best Medicine: The Health Benefits of Humor and Laughter by Melinda Smith and Dr. Jeanne Segal.