Why is it better to laugh instead of cry when life throws a curveball? Because laughter equips you to take that curveball and fire it right back.
These proven health benefits of laughter include increased endorphins, a strengthened immune system, and extra oxygen coursing through your veins.
Some researchers believe laughing is as good as a mild workout, and can burn as many calories.
“The effects of laughter and exercise are very similar,” says Steve Wilson, Ohio-based psychologist and laugh therapist. “Adding laughter to familiar movements, such as waving your arms, activates just about every human physiologic system, similar to conventional or traditional exercise.”
If you have nothing to laugh at and you haven’t watched Despicable Me, then get that movie! I’m a bigger fan of Date Night – that movie made me laugh until I cried. Both movies star Steve Carell; Date Night also includes Tina Fey.
10 Proven Health Benefits of Laughter
Here are 10 reasons to laugh instead of cry when life gives you lemons, throws a curveball, or sucker punches you in the gut…
Laughing burns calories
Laughing for 10-15 minutes raises energy expenditure, increases heart rate, and can burn up to 40 calories. However, it’s not a weight loss method.
“People can’t eat at McDonald’s and then expect to laugh away their lunch,” says Dr. Maciej Buchowski, a professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University. Even so, a few calories every day translates to a few pounds a year – so keep those chuckles coming!
Laughter causes “runner’s high”
Laughing increases positive endorphins (natural pain killers), reduces stress, and strengthens the immune system. Even just anticipating something funny increases anti-viral, anti-tumor defenses, reports Dr Lee Berk of the School of Medicine at Loma Linda University.
The benefits of humor can last up to 24 hours – this may be why they say “laughter is the best medicine.”
Laughing increases job satisfaction
A proven health benefit of laughter is that it improves communication, creativity, and overall performance in the workplace, says Dr Chris Robert. He’s a psychology professor and researcher at the University of Missouri-Columbia who studied how laughter affects employees.
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He says, “The ability to appreciate humor, the ability to laugh and make other people laugh actually has physiological effects on the body that cause people to become more bonded.” Not liking your coworkers is a great reason to laugh instead of cry.
Laughing increases hope and self-worth
Watching just 15 minutes of a comedy show can alleviate worries about health, career, or future plans. Texas A & M psychologist David H. Rosen found that a chuckle can replace negative thoughts with positive ones and help formulate a “plan of attack” for problems.
Laughter increases feelings of self-worth, which makes overcoming obstacles to your goals easier.
Laughter protects against heart disease
“Research suggests that a good sense of humor wards off heart attacks,” says psychologist Steve Wilson. “Laughter dilates blood vessels so blood flows more freely. Humor was a significant positive addition to standard cardiac rehabilitation.”
Dr. Michael Miller, director of the Center for Preventative Cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center reports that laughing reduces the fat and cholesterol build-up in the coronary arteries. He says, “The old saying that ‘laughter is the best medicine,’ definitely appears to be true when it comes to protecting your heart.”
Laughter eliminates “us versus them” thinking
Comedy makes us more inclusive of others and helps us see the big picture. Happiness and humor reduces narrow-minded perspectives, says University of Michigan psychology researcher Kareem Johnson.
Laughing can slash bias and bring people together, which strengthens our work, home, and school relationships. If you work or live with someone you’re fighting with, try doing these stress busters with them — it’ll make you laugh!
Laughing improves counseling sessions
Therapists who laugh with their clients increase feelings of connection and bonding, reports Dr Carl Marci, the director of Social Neuroscience at the Massachusetts General Hospital. So, laughter isn’t just a proven physical health benefit, it’s an emotional health benefit as well.
Psychologist Steve Wilson adds, “Laughter is thought to be one of the earliest ways that humans signaled support and ‘it is safe to relax here.’ Good-natured shared laughter between counselor and client can foster trust, rapport and reduced defensiveness.”
Laughter helps kids tolerate pain
Cartoons can help children cope with painful procedures, such as needles or visits to the dentist.
Dr Margaret Stuber from the University of California’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center found humor helped kids tolerate pain longer. In her study, the young patients who watched funny movies still felt the pain of a standardized pain test (in this case, dipping their hands into icy cold water), but they could endure it better because they were distracted. Laughing instead of crying when life is painful can help you heal.
Laughing improves classroom interactions
Research shows that humor facilitates student discussions and increases course enjoyment.
Mark Shatz, a psychology professor at Ohio State University, found that top ten lists, jokes, and cartoons – all related to the course material – increased academic performance and students’ level of participation. “They expect us [teachers] to be boring and dull. We don’t have to be funny, but the attempt tells students that we’re trying to make the course more interesting.”
Laughing strengthens the immune system
“Stress hormones are reduced during laughter, allowing the immune cells to function better,” says psychologist Steve Wilson. “Laughing also promotes an oxygen/carbon dioxide exchange and clears airways. Muscles and joints are flexed and stretched, promoting muscle tone.”
He says that by some estimates, laughter is a human ability that is about 4 million years old. “We need to be using it, not stifling it.”
I hope these reasons to laugh instead of cry will help you when life throws your next curveball! If not, read How to Get a Life You Like – Tips for Improving Your Life.
Do you find it hard to laugh instead of cry when you’re facing problems? Comments welcome below.