Pay Your Bill
Laughing Really is Important for Your Mental Health

By Pam Dewey • laughter is the best medicine, laughing, laughter, laughing is good for you, laughter and mental health, laughing is good for your mental health, mental illness, mental healthcare, mental health care, mental health therapy, self care, humor and mental health, depression and laughter, depression treatment • May 18, 2023

Think about the last time you laughed really hard, so hard that your sides ached and you had trouble catching your breath. Maybe your child did something silly, you saw a funny meme online or your best friend told you a hilarious story. Now think about how you felt afterward. You probably felt lighter and happier. 

While we’ve all heard laughter is the best medicine, you might not realize that laughter really is beneficial to your body and in turn, your mental health.

Laughing makes you feel good — period

When you laugh, it causes immediate positive responses in your body. The Harvard Gazette states, “Psychologically, [laughter] improves mood almost immediately and lowers stress and anxiety. Physically, it lowers levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, while raising the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin.” According to Mayo Clinic, “Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.” In addition to releasing feel-good hormones, laughing helps your muscles relax, which might explain why your body feels lighter after a good laugh.

It can have positive long-term effects

Since laughing can reduce your feelings of stress, this can cause long-term positive effects, like improving your immune system. According to Mayo Clinic, “Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. By contrast, positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.”

Studies have also shown that laughter can help reduce pain. In the journal article “Humor Therapy: Relieving Chronic Pain and Enhancing Happiness for Older Adults,” researchers state, “Humor also leads to the release of endorphins in the brain, which help to control pain. In a laboratory study of pain tolerance using cold pressor stimulation, participants in the humor group had a significant increase in pain tolerance as compared to the other groups.”  

Laughter can help with depression

Natalie Dattilo, a psychology instructor at Harvard, uses laughter as one type of treatment for people with depression. She states, “Laughter is one of the main tools that I use to help people activate the pleasure and reward centers of the brain, to get them to playfully approach life, make time for that sort of activity as an important pillar of health and wellness.” When people pursue pleasure and play, they are more likely to feel happy, and it can encourage the release of feel-good hormones and relieve stress.

Laughter can strengthen relationships

Laughing with your friends and family is one of the best feelings in the world. It fosters intimacy and can strengthen friendships. Healthline states, “What’s more, laughing with other people can increase social connectedness and bonding, as well as strengthen relationships. It’s also linked to feelings of security and safety, allowing a person to feel more relaxed.”

Ways to add laughter to your life

Consider laughter yoga — Healthline states, “Laughing yoga, also known as laughter yoga, involves a series of movement and breathing exercises to promote deliberate laughter…Many researchers believe that the body cannot distinguish between fake (simulated) or real (spontaneous) laughter, meaning you can benefit by simply forcing yourself to laugh.” In laughing yoga, you force laughter, but because many people feel so silly doing it, it makes them laugh.

Schedule time with close friends — Most of us have close friends with whom we’ve got inside jokes and who know how to make us laugh. Even if your friend lives far away, you can connect over FaceTime, Zoom or your video app of choice.

Go to a comedy show or play — There are many comedy clubs and theaters in the Twin Cities. Buy a ticket to a show and get your funny bone tickled. If you can’t find time to attend in person, Netflix, Hulu and other streaming services offer many comedy specials, so you can access laughs whenever, wherever.

Hang out with your kids, nephews, grandchild, etc. — One great thing about kids is they don’t have as much of a filter as adults. They aren’t embarrassed to act silly or try new things and fail miserably. Spending time with kids can be a good way to experience joy and laughter.

Do something you’ve never done — Of course, this helps if it’s in the realm of play. Learning Excel isn’t a source of joy for most people. But learning to hula hoop or roller skate, or maybe playing with clay or paint, are good ways to play and encourage joy. Plus, looking silly or creating a failed art piece can offer good opportunities to laugh at yourself.