Stress – you’ve met your match
So, now that you know why we get the giggles, we turn to the “what” in this equation: What happens in our body when we laugh?
Laughter, for one, is a fantastic anti-stress tool. While short-lived bouts of stress are no problem and even necessary to keep you alert and unharmed, chronic stress – the kind you may feel constantly even if safe – , can lead to quite some negative health outcomes, including mental health issues or immune disorders.
Before you get stressed about stress, however, let’s get back to the topic at hand, which is how laughter can benefit you! You may already know that exercise is a great overall health-booster. But did you know that laughter has actually been shown to have comparable health benefits to moderate exercise? Sort of like “internal aerobics”, if you will.
This is because laughing, amongst other things, can stimulate your organs, as you take in more oxygen between those hearty “he-he-hes” (yes, we’re talking about those guttural gasps in between bursts of laughter that sound like a vacuum cleaner but just fuel the next bout of hilarity). Alongside this, laughter also increases your heart rate and with that the amount of oxygen in your blood (which is great news for your cardiovascular system!), and lowers your blood pressure.
As if all of the above isn’t already fantastic enough, laughter can relieve tension, too: Perhaps also in a room, but in your body, too! In fact, it can relax your muscles for up to 45 minutes after you have laughed.
When you laugh, your body releases many lovely chemicals: Amongst those are endorphins (which are our body’s natural painkillers), serotonin, our happy hormone, and good chemical communicators – all of which can help counterbalance negative effects our stress hormones might have caused, and thereby boost our immune system.
Looking at the category of brains and mental wellbeing, laughter doesn’t disappoint there, either. Increased memory (and therefore learning abilities) as well as feelings of reward and pleasure caused by the production of dopamine are amongst the delightful outcomes of laughing.
Laughter can also help ease depression and anxiety; for one, it is an excellent form of distraction, as you will find it very difficult, if not impossible to form negative thoughts if you are in the middle of laughing your head off. It’s the perfect little stress break!
Over-the-counter medicine: Laughter