We’ve all been there: Something hits our funny bone just right and sends us into a tizzy of uncontrollable laughter. The kind that starts in your gut and doesn’t stop until you’re in tears. Turns out, laughing does more for us than simply providing a few moments of bliss. The health benefits of laughter range from the mental to the physical—and even the abdominal.
Whether you’re a casual chuckler, a giddy giggler, or tend to erupt into full-blown hysterics, your sense of humor can help you lead a happier, healthier life. Here are some ways a hearty laugh can improve your health:
Kick Stress to the Curb
Stress has a funny way of unleashing havoc on the body: from headaches and muscles aches to symptoms so severe they can be mistaken for heart attacks. To manage your stress before it gets to this level, try laughing—a lot. When your body experiences laughter, your stress responders activate and then cool down, increasing your heart rate and blood pressure, which make you feel more relaxed. Laughter also stimulates circulation and muscle relaxation, decreasing the physical symptoms of stress.
Boost Your Immune System
Beyond decreasing stress, laughter can actually help you fight off illness. When we think negative thoughts, neural pathways are created in our brains. These set off chemical reactions that allow more stress into our systems, weakening our immunity. When we think positively, our brains order the release of neuropeptides, which help fight illness. Additionally, laughter creates more antibody-producing cells, which builds a stronger immune system.
Make the Most of Memory
If you find yourself leaving your coffee mug on top of your car, forgetting your keys more than you’d like to admit, or having trouble with your new co-worker’s name, try laughing about it. Laughter can improve your ability to remember things, while also reducing the stress hormone cortisol, which can inhibit memory.
Protect Your Heart
When we laugh, our blood flow increases, dilating the inner lining of our blood vessels. This change mimics the benefits of aerobic activity, but laughter makes this happen more quickly, which can help protect us from heart attack and cardiovascular disease.
Get One Step Closer to a Six Pack
You won’t get a cut mid-section just from laughing—a lot of work goes into building abs. But laughter does stimulate the abdominals, which can help you tone up. When you laugh, your muscles expand and contract, just as when you perform ab exercises.
Relieve Anxiety and Depression
Hard as it may be to laugh when you’re feeling anxious or depressed, this simple act can have immediate and long-term benefits for those suffering from mood disorders. When you laugh, your body releases endorphins which improve your mood by increasing the levels of dopamine in your brain.
Laughter won’t take the place of everything your doctor and mental health professional have to offer. But it’s good for you, and it makes you happy. The next time you’re feeling stressed or down, why not find a way to make yourself laugh?