8 Ways Humor Heals
HealthCentral Editorial Team Nov 14, 2012 (updated Sep 27, 2013)
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That uncontrollable contagious giggle is doing much more than elevating your mood. Humor has a huge impact on many areas of our health. Here are a few ways our minds, bodies, and souls improve with hilarity.
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Good mental health
Like yawning, laughing is contagious. Your laughter will likely spread to others, resulting in more group happiness. (Think about the mass impact of a YouTube video that goes viral.) Additionally, studies have shown that weekly exposure to humor can result in enhanced happiness and life satisfaction, relaxation, and stress relief. This is, in part, because laughing reduces stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.
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A study from Oxford University revealed that laughter may be a great natural pain reliever. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins – the body’s natural pain fighter. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and provide temporary pain relief. Laughing may be difficult while in pain, but medical professionals are looking at ways to spark humor wherever possible, such as playing comedic movies in hospital waiting rooms.
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Healthier immune system
Laughter can boost overall health by strengthening the immune system. This is because laughter increases levels of beta-endorphins (a hormone that promotes mood balance) by 27 percent and increases the human growth hormone (which is linked to immune health) by 87 percent. Laugher also increases infection-fighting anti-bodies which boost the body’s defense against disease.
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Laughter between friends and partners can bolster a healthier relationship. This is because humor generates positive feelings and strengthens emotional connections. A smile alone can make someone come across as friendlier and even more attractive. Laughter helps soothe conflicts and establish personal bonds.
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You may have heard of laughter fitness groups where people laugh together to achieve stronger muscles. This is because laughing strengthens the abdominal muscles by working out the diaphragm, respiratory, facial, leg, and back muscles. Laughing until it hurts may actually qualify as strength training!
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The abdominals aren’t the only muscles to become stronger with laughter – the heart also benefits. Laughter can lower blood pressure and increase vascular blood flow and oxygenation of the blood, which can help prevent a heart attack and cardiovascular disease.
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Laughter can improve alertness, boost creativity, and improve memory function. This is because humor and creativity are processed in the brain very similarly – by establishing a connection between two unrelated items, which engages the whole brain.
Next: 12 Ways to a Happier You