LOL for good health: The surprising physical benefits of laughter


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group_laughterNothing beats a good, hearty laugh session. You know the kind. It comes out when your friend hilariously falls backward into a garbage can or your boss is yelling at you while there’s a booger hanging off his nose. Not only is laughter an amazing mood-enhancer, but it’s also known to lower anxiety, boost your immune system and aid in circulation.

This is your body on laughter

Even if you have to fake it, a good hearty 10-minute laugh-a-thon does a body good. Here are some surprising effects laughing has on the body:

  • If you have diabetes, good news! Laughter increases receptors for certain proteins in the kidneys that prevent cellular damage in diabetics. It’s also found to decrease spikes in blood glucose after meals.
  • Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain, according to the MayoClinic.
  • Happy mothers have happy babies — especially when they have atopic eczema (an inflammation of the skin). The levels of breast-milk melatonin increase when mothers have a good chuckle, according to the Journal of Psychosomatic Research. Feeding infants with increased levels of melatonin-containing milk reduced allergic responses in infants.
  • A good laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response and increases your heart rate and blood pressure. It can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress, the MayoClinic reported.
  • Just the anticipation of laughter benefits your body. According to a 2008 study,  just knowing there is a hilarious situation on the horizon will reduce harmful stress hormones. (Chronically released high-stress hormone levels can weaken the immune system.) Two hormones — beta-endorphins (a family of chemicals that alleviates depression) and human growth hormone (which helps with immunity) — increased by 27% and 87%, respectively, when volunteers anticipated watching a humorous video. Endorphins help the immune system, while HGH is good for muscles, bones and internal organs.

Laughter yoga … it’s a thing.

As more and more studies focus on the health benefits of laughter, it’s no surprise that it would make its way into a wellness program. Developed by Dr. Madan Kataria in India in 1995, laughter yoga combines unconditional laughter — whether it’s faked or genuine — with the breathing techniques, or Pranayama, found in yoga. In a group laughter yoga session, laughter is simulated as a body exercise; with eye contact and childlike playfulness, it soon turns into real and contagious laughter.

For more details on what happens at a laughter yoga session, click here.