A Laugh a Day Keeps the Doctor Away?

April 22, 2013 / Michael M. Siegel, MD

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It has been said that laughter is the best form of medicine. While laughter can certainly turn a frown upside down, research has not yet established statistically significant lasting effects on mental or physical health. But the good news is that laughter often results in the following benefits:

Pain tolerance – Laughter, like exercise, is thought to release endorphins – those special neurotransmitter substances in the brain that help temporarily control pain.

Stress relief – Some studies suggest that neuroendocrine and stress-related hormones decreased during episodes of laughter.

Increased breathing, oxygen consumption and heart rate – As a number of muscles contract when you laugh, your body responds by breathing deeper, sometimes even gasping for breath. Therefore our heart rate increases and we consume more oxygen.

Strong social ties – Laughter brings people together and plays an essential role in developing healthy relationships. It has also been shown to help people navigate through conflict and take hardships in stride.

So, spend time with your loved ones and share a laugh because as Bill Cosby once said, “through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.”

Category: Mental Health