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The Health Benefits of Joy

Nothing balances your nervous system faster than communicating face-to-face with another person. Add laughter to that communication and you have a powerful antidote to stress, anxiety, pain, and conflict. Humor lightens your burdens, inspires hopes, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert.

With so much power to heal and renew, the ability to laugh easily and frequently is a tremendous resource for surmounting problems, enhancing your relationships, and supporting both physical and emotional health.

Laughter is good for your health

Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.

Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.

Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.

Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

Laughter burns calories. OK, so it’s no replacement for going to the gym, but one study found that laughing for 10 to 15 minutes a day can burn about 40 calories—which could be enough to lose three or four pounds over the course of a year.

Laughter may even help you to live longer. A study in Norway found that people with a strong sense of humor outlived those who don’t laugh as much. The difference was particularly notable for those battling cancer.

Laughter helps you stay emotionally healthy

Laughter makes you feel good. And the good feeling that you get when you laugh remains with you even after the laughter subsides. Humor helps you keep a positive, optimistic outlook through difficult situations, disappointments, and loss.

More than just a respite from sadness and pain, laughter gives you the courage and strength to find new sources of meaning and hope. Even in the most difficult of times, a laugh–or even simply a smile–can go a long way toward making you feel better. And laughter really is contagious—just hearing laughter primes your brain and readies you to smile and join in the fun.

The link between laughter and mental health

Laughter dissolves distressing emotions. You can’t feel anxious, angry, or sad when you’re laughing.

Laughter helps you relax and recharge. It reduces stress and increases energy, enabling you to stay focused and accomplish more.

Humor shifts perspective, allowing you to see situations in a more realistic, less threatening light. A humorous perspective creates psychological distance, which can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Laughter draws you closer to others, and increasing social engagement can have a profound effect on all aspects of your mental and emotional health.

 

Being aware of your thoughts and feelings and making a conscious choice to think more positively is very helpful in maintaining an attitude with joy.

 

 

Proverbs 17:22

“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.”
cheerful-heart
Some Resources:

Laughter is the “Best Medicine” for Your Heart – Describes a study that found that laughter helps prevent heart disease. (University of Maryland Medical Center)

Laughter Therapy – Guide to the healing power of laughter, including the research supporting laughter therapy. (Cancer Treatment Centers of America)

Laugh lots, live longer – Details Norwegian study that found having a strong sense of humor may extend life expectancy. (Scientific American Mind)

Laughter-Based Exercise Program for Older Adults has Health Benefits – Research that shows the health benefits of simulated laughter. (Georgia State University)

No joke: Study finds laughing can burn calories – Outlines a small study that found laughing raises energy expenditure and increases heart rate enough to burn a small amount of calories. (Vanderbilt University Medical Center)

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