Laughter establishes or restores a positive emotional climate and a sense of connection between two people. In fact, some researchers believe that the major function of laughter is to bring people together – the more social a person is and the more social support a person receives, the more likely that laughter will result from that social connection. Mutual laughter and play are an essential component of strong, healthy relationships. By making a conscious effort to incorporate more humor and play into your daily interactions, you can improve the quality of your relationships.
What are the Physical Effects of Laughing?
Laughing makes people feel good for a reason. Studies have shown that laughter boosts the immune system and triggers the release of pleasure-inducing neurochemicals in the brain. The immune system, which contains special cells that are responsible for defending the body against infection, have been shown to increase during the act of laughing. In the central nervous system, the brain releases powerful endorphins as a result of laughing. Endorphins are natural, morphine-like compounds that raise the pain threshold, produce sedation and induce euphoria (commonly called a “natural high”.) In other words, we feel better when we laugh because endorphins reduce physical and mental pain. While this may be a wonderful feeling, laughing has other benefits as well:
During a laugh, respiration, heart rate and blood pressure temporarily rise. This causes oxygen to surge through the bloodstream that then results in lower blood pressure.
Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.
Laughter reduces pain and allows toleration of discomfort. Laughter reduces blood sugar levels, increasing glucose tolerance in diabetics and non-diabetics alike.
Laughter relaxes the whole body, relieving tension and stress. It has been shown that following a good, hearty laugh, muscles in the body are relaxed for up to 45 minutes afterward.
Laughing burns calories – laughter is sometimes referred to as “inner jogging”. A hearty laugh gives the muscles of the face, chest, shoulders, stomach and diaphragm a good workout.
Laughter also helps to create a positive mood. It allows the expression of happiness and the release of anxiety. Humor eases tension and is a great antidote to a stressful situation. Laughter is often seen as a temporary vacation from everyday problems, bringing us to a paradise in which worries do not exist. Humor and laughter are natural safety valves that shut off certain hormones that are released during stressful situations. In fact, your sense of humor is one of the most powerful tools you have to make certain that your daily mood and emotional state support good health.