Life Style

Author: E P
Date: 21/02/2012


Why laugh is good?


Researchers have been studying the effects of laughter on well-being for decades. The case of Saturday Review editor Norman Cousins, who did not die until 1990 after having developed a chronic spinal disease in the 1960s, drew the attention of scientists to the possible therapeutic application of humour.
Since then, the science of pleasure has become a recognized discipline (called Gelotology). Researchers such as immunologist Lee S. Berk of Loma Linda University have conducted numerous clinical studies that confirm the physiological changes when we laugh.
A Healthy Laugh, 2005

The laughter can have a positive impact on various aspects of human body: on heart and vessels, on lungs, on muscles, on immunological resistance and last but not least on mind.

Humor and Laughter May Influence Health IV. Humor and Immune Function, 2009


Laugh reduces stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine levels, that trigger the "fight-or-flight" response when we are afraid. At chronic levels, these hormones cause a dangerous increase of blood pressure and heart failure.

In addition to effects on blood pressure described above, Michael Miller and William Fry hypothesize that β-endorphins released by the pituitary activate μ3 opiate receptors (expressed in the vascular endothelium) that in turn, upregulate nitric oxide synthase to enhance production of Nitric Oxide (NO). Indeed, their studies have demonstrated opposing effects on endothelial vasoreactivity between those previously established and those induced after mirthful laughter, thereby providing a potential mechanistic link between positive emotions and beneficial effects on the vasculature.
Effect of mirthful laughter on vascular function, 2010

Effect of mirthful laughter on vascular function, 2010

Nitric oxide exerts a variety of cardioprotective cellular processes via cellular signaling pathways that include a cGMP-dependent pathway responsible for vasodilation and reduced platelet aggregation as well as inhibition of leukocyte trafficking for reduction of vascular inflammation.
Nitric oxide regulation of protein trafficking in the cardiovascular system, 2007

Researchers of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (Tsukuba, Japan) determined the effects of mirthful laughter, elicited by watching comic movies, on endothelial function and central artery compliance. Seventeen apparently healthy adults watched 30 minutes of a comedy or a documentary (control) on separate days. Heart rate and blood pressure increased significantly while watching the comedy, whereas no such changes were seen while watching the documentary. Ischemia-induced brachial artery flow-mediated vasodilation (by B-mode ultrasound imaging) increased significantly after watching the comedy (17%) and decreased with watching the documentary (-15%). Carotid arterial compliance increased (10%) significantly immediately after watching the comedy and returned to baseline 24 hours after the watching, whereas it did not change significantly throughout the documentary condition. These results suggest that mirthful laughter elicited by comic movies induces beneficial impact on vascular function.
Effect of mirthful laughter on vascular function, 2010

Cardiologists at the University of Maryland found instead that patients who were suffering from myocardial infarction were 40% less likely to laugh. Therefore the laughter was also shown to be prophylactic against MI.
Laugh yourself into a healthier person: a cross cultural analysis of the effects of varying levels of laughter on health, 2009


Laugh stimulates the respiratory system. It forces us to take in more oxygen and expel more carbon dioxide, which makes our breathing deeper and helps us relax. The chest expands when laughing, respiration increases and forces exhausted air from the lungs. Normal lung volume is approximately six liters. With each respiratory cycle, the average air exchange is approximately half a liter. With hearty laughter the volume of air expelled from the lungs is increased at least three times, resulting in increased oxygen exchange.

Laughter Yoga, a new relaxation technique founded by M. Kataria, is a combination of unconditioned laughter and yogic breathing. Its effect on mental and physical aspects of healthy individuals was shown to be beneficial. It's at least as effective as group exercise program in improvement of depression and life satisfaction of elderly depressed women.
Laughter yoga versus group exercise program in elderly depressed women: a randomized controlled trial, 2011


One very early report by Paskind et al. examined the impact of laughter upon muscle tone. Unlike the effects of some exercise, it was demonstrated that periods of intense laughter lead to decreased skeletal muscle tone or relaxation of muscle groups. During laughter, various muscle groups are activated for periods of seconds at a time, while the period immediately after the laugh leads to general muscle relaxation. This post-laughter relaxation can last up to 45min.
Humor and Laughter May Influence Health: III. Laughter and Health Outcomes, 2007

De La Fuente Mochales and González Cascante explain the effects introducing workshops for laughter therapy and relaxation to a unit dedicated to therapeutic education and functional rehabilitation.
Laughter therapy for chronic skeletal muscular pain, 2010


Immunity is a form of integral protection and defense against foreign agents. Laughter has been shown to affect the release of various immune mediators.
There are two types of stress: distress (the negative type), and eustress (the positive type also known as mirthful laughter). Distress was shown to increase stress hormones such as beta-endorphins, corticotrophins and catecholamines, but laughter (a form eustress) decrease these hormones, fortified activity of natural killer (NK) cells, activated T cells and B cells and increased Ig levels. Thus, laughter is capable of combating the negative aspects of distress and fortifying the individual's immune system to help fight against various immune mediated illnesses.
Laugh yourself into a healthier person: a cross cultural analysis of the effects of varying levels of laughter on health, 2009

Humor and Laughter May Influence Health IV. Humor and Immune Function, 2009

In this regard, researchers of the Nippon Medical School (Tokio) led by Dr T. Matsuzaki studied the effect of laughter on serum pro and anti-inflammatory cytokines in a group of patients with severe Rheumatoid Arthritis. Their studies demonstrates that abnormal levels of serum pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines were present in RA patients at baseline whereas after laughter these molecules were differentially modulated (serum interleukin-6 and interleukin-4 decreased significantly).
Study shows laughter helps difficult-to-control RA, 2006

Hayashi et al. also demonstrated that laughter influences the expression of many genes classified into immune responses, and may contribute to amelioration of postprandial blood glucose elevation through a modulation of NK cell activity caused by up-regolation of relating genes.
Laughter up-regulates the genes related to NK cell activity in diabetes, 2007


The Geneva Foundation for Medical Education and Research has found that humour and laughter possibly improve emotional well-being and thereby improve health.
Laughter produces brain's endorphins that are also created in response to exercise, excitement, love, consumption of spicy food and sexual orgasm.

Beta-endorphin's structure

Produced in the brain by the pituitary gland and hypothalamus, endorphins are endogenous opioid peptides that actually function as neurotransmitters. Their feel-good and pain relieving action are similar to the opiate effect like morphine and codeine: laughter is a powerful pain-reducing tool and certainly the least expensive.
Why Laughter May Be the Best Pain Medicine, 2011

Relaxed social laughter is associated with feelings of wellbeing and heightened affect, a proximate explanation for which might be the release of endorphins. Dunbar et al. tested this hypothesis in a series of six experimental studies in both the laboratory (watching videos) and naturalistic contexts (watching stage performances), using change in pain threshold as an assay for endorphin release. The results show that pain thresholds are significantly higher after laughter than in the control condition. This pain-tolerance effect is due to laughter itself and not simply due to a change in positive affect. They suggest that laughter, through an endorphin-mediated opiate effect, may also play a crucial role in social bonding.
Social laughter is correlated with an elevated pain threshold, 2012

Then beta endorphins are the best natural antidepressant, increase wellness' perception and decrease pain sensation, give us a wonderful comfort feeling. Laughter also produces oxytocin and dopamine that have anti anxiety effects and reduce levels of stress hormones in the blood. After a laughter we feel good, and let's not forget that laughter is contagious!


Laugh is the best natural drug you can find. For this reason, laughter has been studied for its therapeutic purposes under the name of Gelotology (from the Greek gelos, meaning laughter). The field of study was pioneered by William Fry of Stanford University and it's now subject of worldwide interest.

So when life is getting you down, laugh. If you can't find a source of humour, then at least find a mirror and smile at yourself for a moment. Even though that might not eliminate your work stress or annoyance at your children, it will improve your mood and create a little distance between yourself and your problems, at least temporarily
A Healthy Laugh, 2005

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