Humor and Its Effects On Your Health

Humor can be good for you! I’d argue that humor is good for you, how can it be bad? How could laughing and being happy be bad for you? Today I wrote about humor and its effects on your health. I think being healthy is secondary to being happy anyways. Some people would argue that you have to be healthy to be happy! I’m not interested in debating what happiness means. I believe happiness means different things to different people. I am interested in the effects humor has on us and I can’t see that laughing is a bad thing!

Too much of a good thing is bad for you

There is always an exception to the rules and I would argue that “laughing is the exception to this rule.”

Some researchers think laughter is the best medicine, and other researchers are not so sure.
We will take a look at both “sides of the coin” concerning laughter. However, one thing cannot be disputed…. laughing feels good!

Steve Wilson, MA, CSP, a psychologist, says, “I believe that if people can get more laughter in their lives they are a lot better off. They might be healthier too.”

Other researchers are not so sure if laughing is what makes people feel better. They believe it might just be the person’s sense of humor, positive attitude and being the “kind of person that other people want to be around” that makes all the difference.

There isn’t a study with a control group that can prove one theory over the other. It would probably not be possible if you instructed the control group hanging around their friends “not to laugh” and have them comply. Finding an individual capable of “not laughing” for a few months is probably a hard thing to do. I wish they would ask me if I knew anyone that could do this. My old high school history teacher has never laughed a day in his life, they could use him!

“The definitive research into the potential health benefits of laughter just hasn’t been done yet,” says Robert R. Provine, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and author of Laughter: A Scientific Investigation.

One thing everyone can agree on is this: Laughter sure doesn’t hurt anybody (unless you ask someone with broken ribs)

What Happens When We Laugh

  • we change our physiology (stretch muscles throughout our face and body)
  • we raise our pulse and blood pressure
  • we breathe faster (sending more oxygen to our tissues)
  • we increase blood flow
  • we experience increased immune response – stress is a cause of “decreased immune response” and laughter alleviates stress!
  • we have lower blood sugar levels (they conducted a study on this)
  • we are more relaxed – probably from the blood flow and increase in oxygen in the bloodstream
  • we sleep better – laughter has been proven to reduce pain in people with chronic pain conditions, allowing them to sleep better

Laughter is the best medicine unless you are talking to someone with diabetes. Then, it’s insulin.

Humor and Its Effects On Your Health

What’s the truth about humor and its effects on your health? Can laughter boost your energy? Not every scientist says so (I didn’t know my high school history teacher was also a scientist – but I guess he is). “I don’t mean to sound like a curmudgeon, but the evidence that laughter has health benefits is iffy at best,” says one scientist.

He says that most studies of laughter have been small and not well conducted. He also says too many researchers have an obvious bias: they go into the study wanting to prove that laughter has benefits.
(This guy needs a happy pill)

“It’s not clear that the effects of laughing are distinct from screaming,” he says. (really?)

Robert R. Provine (the “sad scientist” I am talking about) says, “the most convincing health benefit he’s seen from laughter is its ability to dull pain.” Numerous studies of people in pain or discomfort have found that when they laugh they report that their pain doesn’t bother them as much.

“It could be that a compelling drama would have the same effect,” he says. So, the evidence of laughter being the contributor to their pain relief is not conclusive.

Let’s look at a study concerning humor and its effects on your health.

Studying the effects of laughing is not an easy thing to do

A study might show that people who laugh more are less likely to be sick. But, that might be because healthy people have more to laugh about. (OK, that is hilarious)

If you look at a group of people with the same disease, people who laugh more might have more energy. That could be because the people who laugh more have a personality that allows them to cope better.
So, it becomes very hard to say if laughter is an agent of change or just a sign of a person’s underlying condition.

What we know for sure about humor

  • Laughter is social, so any health benefits might come from being close with friends and family, and not the laughter itself.
  • We are thirty times more likely to laugh when we’re with other people than when we’re alone. People who laugh a lot may just have a strong connection to the people around them. That might have health benefits by itself.
  • Laughing more could make you healthier, but we don’t know for certain
  • Laughter is contagious
  • Some people snort when they laugh, which is always funnier than whatever was said or done (I do not do that though, for the record)

We all know that laughing, being with friends and family, and being happy can make us feel better – even though sad scientists may not know why.

Laughter improves your quality of life

The way you feel when you laugh is reason enough to do it – who cares what a doctor or scientist has to say about the matter. Researchers in a study in 2008, found that the “anticipation of laughter” (e.g., when you think something is going to be funny) lowers your levels of the cortisol and the epinephrine stress hormones, as well as the stress hormone known as dopac.

This usually happens when you are listening to a joke and waiting for the punchline – unless the person that is telling the joke always screws up the punchline.

Guess what else is cool about humor

Ten minutes or more of laughter alone burns more than 50 calories. All the more reason to laugh when you are eating cake!

Humor and its effects on your health, to me, are obvious!

Laughter is the best medicine unless you are laughing for no reason – then, you need medicine.

Do you have a joke or funny story you could share with us to make us laugh? Please leave it in the comment section below!

Philip Isaac

"I hope there are days that excite you like when you were a little kid. I hope the oceans on our planet enable you to feel the magnitude of what our Universe has in store for you. I hope you laugh and cry tears of gratitude every single day." - Philip Isaac