Practitioners of gelotology — the study of laughter and it is effects on the body — take it very seriously. So much so that many gelotologists prescribe laughter as medicine for what ails us.
Laughter can help ameliorate mental and physical health conditions, says Stanford University professor emeritus William Fry, MD, a gelotology pioneer. In the 1960s, Fry famously experimented on himself, drawing liquid blood samples while watching Laurel and Hardy movies and noting that laughter lowered blood pressure and enhanced immune-system function.
Since then, numerous studies have demonstrated laughter’s salutary effects with “no downsides, negative effects, or risks.” And it’s free.
Research finds that laughter can heal within the following ways.
Stimulates vital organs: A bout of laughter affects your body in ways similar to moderate exercise. It makes you breathe in more air, invigorating your heart, lungs, and circulatory system while relaxing muscles and increasing the brain’s feel-good endorphins and dopamine, based on a Mayo Clinic study. This could protect your cardiovascular system — and even relieve pain.
Soothes tension, anxiety, and stress: A good laugh spurs and then calms your stress response, lowering levels of the stress hormones epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol. Mayo researchers say this can, in turn, ease your heart rate and blood pressure while stimulating circulation and aiding muscle relaxation — all of which help reduce stress symptoms.
Boosts immunity: Laughter triggers the brain to release neuropeptides, which calm stress and inflammation while boosting production of natural killer cells that fight viral infections, cancer, and other illnesses.
Laughter also helps balance blood sugar in type 2 diabetes patients and relieve symptoms of many chronic conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and asthma.
Enhances cognitive function: A meta-review of worldwide gelotology studies shows that laughing contributes to brain health by boosting mood, battling depression, promoting a feeling of well-being, and even improving overall mental function.
“Current studies show that laughter has quantifiable positive physiologic benefits,” researchers summarized.
How to Laugh More
“Until scientists exercise all the details, get in all the laughter that you could!” advises neuroscientist and laugh researcher -Robert Provine, PhD. Gelotologists prescribe a number of ways to amplify the amusement in your lifetime:
- Smile more. Even a simulated smile or forced laugh has benefits – and can become contagious.
- Collect jokes and share all of them with others. “Knock knock. . . .”
- Watch a funny movie, Television show, or YouTube video.
- Play with children, have fun with pets – play generally.
- Try laughter yoga. Hasya yoga combines yoga asanas with laughter as complementary therapy.
- Make time for fun activities, such as mini golf, bowling, or karaoke – or host a game title night.
- Go where the fun is. Spend more time with people who make you laugh.
- Count your life's blessings. Gratitude boosts your state of mind, opens your heart, and enables you to more receptive to laughter.