Everyone enjoys a good laugh with their friends, but joking around or watching a good comedy can do more than just provide entertainment. Beyond a mental mood boost, laughter can also help improve certain aspects of your physical wellbeing.
“Laughing releases endorphins, the body’s feel-good chemicals, which increases pain tolerance and enhance wellbeing,” says Dr. Barbara Nosal, the chief clinical officer at Newport Academy. “Laughter offers a range of physical benefits, from better heart health to increased immunity.”
Learn five surprising health benefits of laughing below.
The chemicals released when you laugh can help alleviate the effects of stress and anxiety. “Laughter reduces the body’s stress hormones, designed to activate fear-based fight or flight responses,” says licensed clinical psychologist Dorian Crawford. “Dopamine is released into the brain when we are laughing, and this is a feel-good chemical that helps you feel better and less on-edge.”
Laughter forces you to take deeper breaths. “When we are stressed or anxious, we take very shallow breaths,” says Crawford. “Deeper breathing induces relaxation, releases endorphins, and reduces a stress reaction.” It’s also possible that laughter can maintain heart health by decreasing heart rate and increasing blood flow, which protects against a heart attack and other cardiovascular issues, according to Nosal.
Works your core
Want to work on those abs? Have a good chuckle. “Laughter is an excellent way to exercise core muscles,” says Crawford. “Laugh and tone at the same time. It also has the effect of releasing muscle tension in the places we usually hold it.” Once again, relaxation of muscle tension can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.
Improves pain tolerance
Laughter can act as nature’s own painkiller. A study out of Oxford University found that a hearty laugh is linked with feeling less pain. This is, again, due to the release of endorphins, which interact with our brain’s opiate receptors to reduce our perception of pain.
Boosts immune system
Fight off colds with a good sense of humor. “Laughing increases immunity by releasing neuropeptides that help fight the body’s stress response,” says Nosal. Since laughing reduces your level of stress hormones, which are linked to decreased immune function, it can boost your ability to fight illness. Additionally, some studies have shown humor can help raise the level of infection-fighting antibodies in the body.
xx, The FabFitFun Team
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