Keep smiling – does laughing keep us healthy?

Say cheese!

Laughing is one of the best things that we can do to boost our health and wellbeing. There are many reasons why we should laugh, but we often forget how important it is to laugh in our daily lives.

When was the last time you laughed? :-)

Laughter is a natural reflexive expression of joy and happiness. Laughter is not just a means of expressing our feelings and emotions, but it also has many other health benefits.


“Laughter is a bodily exercise, precious to health.”
− Aristotle −


Laugh your stress away

We all get stressed. It’s a common problem that affects many of us. Be it pressure at work, family worries or financial problems, stress can negatively affect our physical and mental health. Yet there is a very simple way to de-stress: laugh.

Yes, really! Even though we often don’t really feel like laughing when we’re dealing with stress, it helps! When we laugh, a cascade of physiological reactions is triggered in our bodies, and they all contribute to de-stressing us. Namely, endorphins – our natural “happiness hormones” – are released when we laugh. Endorphins contribute to relaxing us and give our wellbeing a boost. Studies also show that laughter is good for our cortisol levels. Cortisol is the hormone associated with stress; it is produced by the body in response to stress. If you are suffering from chronic stress, that is, prolonged stress, increased cortisol levels in the blood can be detrimental to your health. That’s why you should try to laugh more often, even when times are stressful. This will lift your mood, boost your wellbeing and additionally benefit your mental and physical health.

Laughter = positive feelings

Laughter results in hormonal changes on the physical level, and this boosts our wellbeing. There are also benefits on the cognitive level: even very young children associate laughter with positive feelings. Children learn very early that they feel good when they laugh and that laughing makes them happy.

As early as 1988, Strack, Martin and Stepper’s study demonstrated that a good mood can be induced by imitated, deliberately generated laughter. This means that you can trick your body by pretending that you find something funny, turning your frown upside-down and faking a smile on your face. If you repeat this a few times, and maybe even try to laugh out loud deliberately, you’ll find that your mood changes for the better.
The connection between facial expression and emotional experience has been demonstrated in a great many studies since 1988. This effect is also tapped in laughter therapy, in which laughter is deployed as a tool to improve mental and physical health.

Laughter strengthens social relationships

Laughter also has a social component. It is a tool to boost social relationships and may contribute to strengthening relationships and resolving conflicts.

Do you know that feeling of intimacy when someone smiles at you on the street, or on the bus, train or tram? A smile between two strangers can be highly effective at creating trust. Over and over again there are moments in our daily lives where you encounter someone and smile, without talking, because you are strangers and don’t know each other. Yet by smiling, you share a moment and feel a connection. Usually positive thoughts and feelings are associated with this, making it a moment in which you feel good.
What we have just described has been proven scientifically. Smiling and laughing increase the interaction and trust between people and strengthen social relationships.


“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”
− Victor Borge −


It’s a shame that adults laugh on average only around 15 times per day. By contrast, children laugh approximately 400 times per day, or so studies show. Is that maybe why they find it so easy to come into contact with others? It’s very possible. The laughter of children should alone be motivation enough to laugh more yourself during your day.

How you can incorporate laughter into your daily life

Here are a few tips for laughing more every day :-)

  • Read funny books or comics.
  • Watch funny films or TV programmes.
  • Spend time with friends or family members who make you laugh.
  • Spend time with children and let them infect you with their laughter.
  • Take regular breaks during your working day and swap jokes with your colleagues, or watch funny videos and laugh together.
  • Laugh at yourself and your mistakes.
  • Play funny games that make you laugh, such as karaoke or charades.
  • Stand in front of a mirror and smile at yourself. Repeat this a few times in quick succession and try to laugh at yourself.

Conclusion

Laughter can be a simple, effective way to de-stress and improve our mental and physical health. If we laugh regularly and integrate laughter into our daily lives, we can manage our stressors better and feel happier and more relaxed.

 

References
Asano, Y., Yoshida, T., Kimura, Y. & Okazaki, K. (2019). Effects of laughter therapy on physical health outcomes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 42, 271-279.
Martin, R. A. & Kuiper, N. A. (2016). The Stress-Laughter Connection: The Case for a Positive Emotions-Based Stress Response. The Journal of Research in Personality, 63, 11-27.
Schüz, S. (2022). Kein Witz: Lachen ist gesund. iMpuls. Available on: https://impuls.migros.ch/de/entspannung/work-life-balance/gluecklich-sein/lachen-ist-gesund
Strack, F, Martin, L. L & Stepper, S. (1988). Inhibiting and Facilitating Conditions of the Human Smile: A Nonobtrusive Test of the Facial Feedback Hypothesis, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 768-777

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