We’ve all heard the phrase “laughter is the best medicine” and you’ve likely heard that laughing really is good for you. However, it’s rarely explained why this is true. There’s no doubt that you feel better after a good chuckle or full-blown laughing fit, but the actual scientific reasons are still a mystery to most who have heard the old cliché. So, why exactly is laughing so beneficial to our wellbeing?
Laughing Releases Endorphins in the Brain
When boiled down to its chemical reaction laughing feels good because it releases endorphins and other opioids into the brain. The more opioid receptors a person has in the brain the more they laugh, often externalised as a ‘bubbly’ personality. Of course, we can also laugh during negative situations as a coping mechanism, as the release of endorphins have certain benefits.
The benefits of these chemicals are that they can release stress and even help reduce physical pain. Interestingly, since we laugh both when we’re stressed and relaxed, this points to the likelihood that laughter isn’t only about humour or stress relief, but a broader emotional reaction.
There is also evidence that shows we laugh most in social situations with friends. This could suggest that our brains are both more receptive to the endorphins when relaxed and also more capable of producing them when under stress.
Laughing Helps Mental Health and Cognitive Clarity
When people say laughing is good for your health you may be thinking it’s a great workout, alas this isn’t the case. However, it is beneficial to our mental health. The stress relieving properties of laughing helps break the negative outlook that poor mental health is associated with. We’ve all experienced how stress and anxiety can cloud our judgement of a situation, so when we laugh it helps remove the fog of psychological negativity.
This subsequently helps boost self-esteem helping a person remove themselves from self-inflicted isolation and boosting confidence in social situations. As mentioned previously, we laugh more when socialising, this can then result in a snowball effect of wanting to socialise more as we get continued feelings of positivity as we laugh.
Laughter can also be beneficial in therapy sessions. For those who have therapy in order to deal with mental health issues there has been research from the Massachusetts General Hospital that showed laughter was used by patients to convey intense emotion. When it came to talking about difficult feelings or memories, laughter acted as a kind of mitigator to help verbalise the emotions. This could again be linked the relaxation properties of laughter making stressful situations easier and releasing tension.