7 Benefits of Laughing for Physical and Psychological Health
The benefits of laughing have an impact on physical and emotional health, as science has proven. But let’s start by defining what laughter is. The Cambridge Dictionary defines laughing as the “to smile while making sounds with your voice that show you think something is funny or you are happy”.
And, as we said before, laughter can also be considered as the externalization of the feeling of joy. It can come from something we see or remember, and depending on the impact it causes us, it can manifest itself in a faint smile or a contagious laugh. In any case, it always brings us benefits.
What is laughter therapy?
Laughing has a healing effect on the body and the soul, that’s undeniable, as the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Gabriel García Márquez, said, “No medicine cures what happiness cannot.” In cases where patients have to cope with great pain, especially in pediatric units, an alternative therapy known as laughter therapy is often used.
Also known as gelotherapy, a term from the Greek gelos that means to laugh, is described by studies on its application as a method to teach how to laugh. Its objective is to alleviate the suffering of children through different activities that allow them to focus on everyday aspects of childhood.
One of the most well-known laughter therapy methods inside hospitals is the work of clown doctors. These are professionals who, through humor, bring smiles to patients.
In this way, not only are health benefits obtained, but the relationship between patients and health professionals is improved, as empathy and compassion are generated.
But that’s not all. Laughter therapy is also used to help people relax their muscles and express themselves through natural and spontaneous laughter.
The 7 health benefits of laughing
Without further ado, we’re going to tell you what the seven health benefits of laughing are. If you’re someone who laughs a lot, you’ll undoubtedly want to continue doing it. If, on the other hand, you’re one of those people who avoids expressing yourself through a smile or a laugh, you better start practicing laughter therapy. The body, soul, and mind will thank you.
1. Decreases insomnia
If you suffer from insomnia, then it would be very helpful for you to start laughing more. Studies have shown that a good laughter therapy session reduces insomnia and snoring during sleep phases. In addition, it allows you to have a much more pleasant and restful sleep.
At the same time, experts have identified that laughing as a therapeutic method helps older adults to increase their quality of sleep and combat symptoms of depression, allowing them both physical and intellectual rest.
2. Laughing prevents cardiovascular problems
Laughter is an involuntary act– it’s easy to tell when it’s fake. It works through breathing and is produced through interruptions in the exhalation of breath. At this time is when there’s an activation of the respiratory system that impacts the cardiovascular and neurological systems.
Laughing releases hormones like endorphins that have a psychological well-being effect that protects the cardiovascular system. In addition, laughter has a vasodilator effect in which the endothelium relaxes and improves blood circulation. This, in turn, lowers blood pressure. All of this has been proven by different scientific studies.
Among the cardiovascular benefits, we find that laughter also increases the levels of HDL cholesterol, also known as good cholesterol. It also prevents the formation of cholesterol plaques (atherosclerosis) and heart attacks, thanks to the vibratory movements that occur in the heart muscles.
Laughter is a reaction in which there are contractions of the diaphragm that are usually accompanied by syllabic vocalizations such as the well-known “hahaha”.
These expressions resonate in the pharynx and soft palate. In addition, a facial expression is produced in which 300 body muscle groups are involved. Not just from the face, but from the abdominal wall, head, neck, back, shoulders, arms, hands, and legs.
By releasing the tension that can accumulate in these muscles, some of which aren’t worked on very much in most training routines, they relax and stretch. The action of laughter on the muscles of the face, in particular, keeps them active, rejuvenated, and with fewer wrinkles.
4. Laughter has an analgesic effect
Scientific research has shown that laughter has pain-relieving effects. According to these findings, five minutes of continuous laughter releases enough endorphins to produce a morphine-like effect. This is the reason why this wellness effect is generated which increases pain tolerance.
This is another reason behind laughter therapy or clown doctors. In addition to giving patients the opportunity to laugh through different activities, the secretion of these hormones is stimulated to provide pain relief.
5. Strengthens the immune system
As we already mentioned, laughter reduces the effects of stress on the body. By doing this, you also strengthen the immune system, which is impaired by high levels of stress.
Such is the effect that some studies have shown that laughter therapy influences NK or natural killer cells, increasing their ability to fight infections, viruses, and tumors.
In fact, hospital clowns usually focus on oncology units in order to offer these benefits to these types of patients.
6. Improves breathing
As we mentioned, when we laugh, several muscles and systems are involved, including the respiratory system. In fact, some studies have reported that it reduces bronchial hyperresponsiveness in patients diagnosed with asthma.
In addition, and in regard to the previous point, when we laugh, the levels of immunoglobulin A are increased, an antibody that fights bacteria and infections that attack the respiratory system.
7. Laughter strengthens memory
In the last of the benefits of laughing that we’ll highlight, we find its impact on memory. Laughter is therapy, as we’ve mentioned throughout this article, but it goes beyond the field of medicine. There are studies that review its impact on learning and confirm that humor is necessary.
In addition to strengthening memory and learning ability, it also encourages listening, creativity, and critical thinking. Likewise, laughter, in the work of teachers, improves the relationship with students in an environment that’s free of stress and anxiety. It also encourages participation and a direct relationship with studying.
How to get the benefits of laughing?
It’s estimated that six-year-olds laugh between 3,000 and 400 times each day, getting many of the benefits of laughing. However, when those children become an adult, they only laugh about 15 to 100 times. Later, when they’re older adults, they do it less than 80 times.
Think of all the benefits that we’re losing because, in the process of growing up, we forget the simplicity of those things that made us laugh in childhood. As you can see, it’s in adulthood when many physical conditions appear. That’s why it’s so important to smile and laugh.It might interest you...
- Villán J., Gaona C., Carrero Z. Risoterapia: una terapia complementaria a la medicina occidental. Revista Med. 26(2) 2018. Disponible en: http://www.scielo.org.co/pdf/med/v26n2/1909-7700-med-26-02-36.pdf
- Forero J., Forero N., Torre D. Aportes de la risoterapia desde la experiencia del clown y el personal de la salud, frnte al bienestar psicológico de las personas. Universidad Santo Tomás, 2016. Disponible en: https://repository.usta.edu.co/bitstream/handle/11634/3654/Forerojhenny2016.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
- Manzu Jattin, F., De Ávila, R., Cota Arriola, D. Cuida tu corazón, es para toda tu vida. Universidad de Cartagena, 2012. disponible en: https://scc.org.co/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Cuida-tu-Coraz%C3%B3nes-para-toda-tu-Vida.pdf
- Acevedo, V., Estrada, J., Gallego, C., Gaviria, C., Restrepo, M. Efectos de la terapia de la risa en la enfermedad. Universidad CES, 2010. Disponible en: https://repository.ces.edu.co/bitstream/10946/1961/1/TESIS_FINAL_PARA_PRESENTAR%5B1%5D.pdf
- La risa, un complemento esencial en la recuperación del paciente. Vol. 24 Núm. 1 (2011): Médicas UIS. Disponible en: https://revistas.uis.edu.co/index.php/revistamedicasuis/article/view/2584#:~:text=La%20risa%20como%20un%20componente,diferentes%20efectos%20que%20tiene%20la
- Bennett, Mary P; Zeller, Janice M; Rosenberg, Lisa; McCann, Judith. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine; Aliso Viejo Tomo 9, N.º 2, (Mar/Apr 2003): 38-45. Disponible en: https://search.proquest.com/openview/32bff964dba95ba92d88fa31d2296ce5/1?pq-origsite=gscholar
- ancheros García, E. A., Tovar Valle, J. F., & Rojas Bermúdez, C. A. (2011). Risa y salud: abordajes terapéuticos. MedUNAB, 14(1), 69-75. Disponible en: https://revistas.unab.edu.co/index.php/medunab/article/view/1380
- Fernández-Poncela, Anna-María (2012). ‘Riéndose aprende la gente’. Humor, salud y enseñanza aprendizaje. Revista Iberoamericana de Educación Superior, III(8),51-70.[fecha de Consulta 21 de Marzo de 2021]. ISSN: . Disponible en: https://www.redalyc.org/articulo.oa?id=299129032003