Why a Laugh a day Keeps the Doctor Away

Smiling and laughter are simple expressions, but experiencing them can make any normal situation into something special. Whether it’s the surprise of a stranger smiling at you on the subway, or the comfort of your boss laughing with you about some joke, there is something magical about this ordinary expression. We love to laugh together for a number of reasons. Smiling and laughing are not only fun, they’re good for your health—not just physically, but socially and emotionally, as well. Let’s dive into the benefits of smiling and laughing to find out why a laugh a day really does keep the doctor away.

Benefits of Smiling and Laughing

Smiling and laughing seem to be phenomena that have developed on an evolutionary basis. Human expressions of happiness
are culturally universal. They are one of the most basic human behaviors, starting at six weeks after birth, when babies start mimicking the smiles and laughter that the adults around them express in pleasant moments. Children learn to tell their caretakers when they are happy very early in life, and continue to apply this communication skill for the rest of their lives.

The simple, genuine behaviors of smiling and laughing seem to have exceptional impact on social interactions, enabling unique bonds with friends and family and setting a basis for joyful communication. There is a good reason for how much people appreciate sharing a sense of humor in friendships and relationships.

Having a good laugh improves the atmosphere by making it more relaxed and less tense, leading to less conflict and more cooperation. Having something to laugh about with a friend, coworker, or family member gives you some common ground for good feelings. Practicing humorous exchanges sets a precedent for positive interactions in interpersonal relationships.

Laughter is the Best Medicine

Research has shown that laughing for 10 – 15 minutes a day burns up to 40 calories and relaxes muscles for up to 45 minutes. Even more importantly, laughter boosts the immune system, lowers blood pressure, and stimulates the release of endorphins. Frequently described as ‘happiness hormones’, endorphins are released during physical sensation and activity, and are responsible for feelings of euphoria and pain relief. Opiate and opioid pain medication actually works by binding to the same receptors that endorphins affect. While opiates are necessary in  unfortunate situations that require anesthesia, the brain is actually pretty good at stimulating opiate receptors by releasing its own hormones. Endorphin release leads to an increase of positive emotions, which definitely qualifies it as a laughing matter.

While smiling and laughing are clearly beneficial to physical health, they seem to have an even more powerful effect on mental health. Crawford and Caltabiano (2011) conducted an experiment that involved the use of a group humor skills program. The study found that participants who were “trained in humor” by the program showed increased self-efficacy, positive thinkingoptimism and perceptions of control, and decreased negative thinking and depression and anxiety symptoms, as compared with untrained participants. Knowing what to say to make others laugh can actually help protect you against common mental health problems. Most importantly, knowing your way around humor helps reinforce a positive state of mind.Beauty Knows No Pain—Or Does It?

Beauty Knows No Pain—Or Does It?

So what happens if you can’t physically smile or laugh? Do the positive effects of these behaviors diminish? In 2010, Davis et al. compared the impact of BOTOX injections (which paralyze muscles of facial expression) and control Restylane injections (which is a cosmetic filler that does not affect facial muscles) on self-reported emotional experience. Between-groups comparisons showed that relative to controls, BOTOX participants exhibited a significant overall decrease in the strength of their emotional experiences. Apparently, the physical act of smiling and laughing really intensifies good feelings. Because of the endorphin release that physical laughter triggers, this should come as little surprise.

Laughter Yoga

Laughter should be a part of everyday life, but it is also possible to incorporate it into your daily routine as an exercise. This type of workout is called Laughter Yoga. A recent study demonstrates that after one session of laughter yoga, participants experienced a decrease in both stress and anxiety, as well as an overall improved sense of well-being and a decrease in negative emotions (Internicola, 2012). Sounds laughable? That’s a reason to try it out!

Smiling and laughter are simple expressions, but experiencing them can make any normal situation into something special. Whether it’s the surprise of a stranger smiling at you on the subway, or the comfort of your boss laughing with you about some joke, there is something magical about this ordinary expression. We love to laugh together for a number of reasons. Smiling and laughing are not only fun, they’re good for your health—not just physically, but socially and emotionally, as well. Let’s dive into the benefits of smiling and laughing to find out why a laugh a day really does keep the doctor away.

Source: https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/laugh-day-keeps-doctor-away/#benefits-smiling-laughing

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