Discover laughter exercises and the physical and mental health benefits.
One of the best feelings in the world is sharing a good belly laugh with the people you care about. Laughter is a universal part of the human experience and it has the power to build a bridge between people of all different backgrounds and walks of life. You don’t even need to speak the same language as another person to share a laugh with them. Even though you have likely experienced laughter countless times in your life, how much do you know about this emotion?
Keep reading to gain a better understanding of this complex human emotion.
What Is Laughter?
Hopefully, laughter is an emotion you experience and express daily. It is usually a spontaneous vocalization in response to something humorous. Laughter is a social expression of emotion–we are more than 30 times more likely to laugh when we are with another person than if we are alone (Provine, 2004). That’s because laughter is a way that we communicate with other people.
A form of communication
A form of self-expression
Laughter & Health
There is evidence to show that laughing can improve your mental health. This happens because the positive emotion of laughter can override other negative emotions you may be experiencing (Saper, 1990).
Positive effects on mental health due to laughter:
Increased life satisfaction
Increased quality of life
Increased cognitive function
Improved mood and happiness
Decreased depression (Kuru Alici & Arikan Dönmez, 2020)
Do you feel like you need a mental health boost? Laughing just might be the answer. You can try calling up a friend to talk about old funny stories or looking up your favorite funny movie moments on YouTube. It might be uncomfortable at first, but replacing negative emotions with happy ones can have a positive effect on your life.
Incorporating a regular laughter yoga practice into your life can have even further physical health benefits.
Positive effects on physical health due to laughter:
Lower blood pressure
Lower stress hormones
Increased sleep quality (Kuru Alici & Arikan Dönmez, 2020)
You may experience all of the mental and physical health benefits of laughter listed above with regular practice. Luckily, the brain is not able to distinguish between spontaneous laughter (occurring randomly between two people) and self-induced laughter (making yourself laugh) (Mora-Ripoll, 2010). This means that you can experience all the benefits of laughter by simply practicing it, even if you might not feel like laughing at the moment.
How to Laugh More
Do you feel like you need more joy in your life? It can be easy to get overwhelmed by events on the news and around the world. Making an effort to incorporate more laughter into your life can help alleviate stress. Consider trying the following activities.
Make a YouTube playlist of all your favorite funny TV or movie moments. You don’t have to watch an entire show or movie to get your laughs, which can take a lot of time. Just search for the movie or TV show + funny moments (e.g., Elf funny moments, Mean Girls funny moments, Simpsons funny moments, etc.). From there, you can make a playlist you can quickly view if you need some humor.
Call up a friend or family member to talk about funny stories. Connecting with loved ones is important for our health. Connection through laughter can be even more beneficial. The next time you remember a funny story, call or text someone to reminisce about it.
Have a silly game night with loved ones. You can play classics like charades or Pictionary or try a new game. Consider playing games that don’t emphasize competition and rather focus on having fun.
Incorporate laughter exercises, like yoga and meditation. Since your brain cannot tell the difference between spontaneous and self-simulated laughter, you can experience benefits by practicing laughter exercises.
Laughing is a way that we communicate with other people. It can help lighten your mood by replacing negative emotions with positive ones. Just laughing can make you feel better and practicing laughter yoga regularly can also lead to other benefits. It can improve mental health by improving quality of life, cognitive function, and happiness; laughter yoga can also be beneficial for your physical health by lowering blood pressure and stress hormones and increasing your quality of sleep.
Do you feel like you could benefit from more laughter in your life? Try going to a funny movie with a friend or incorporating laughter yoga into your morning routine. It can be a wonderful practice to bring more joy and happiness into your life.
Kuru Alici, N., & Arikan Dönmez, A. (2020). A systematic review of the effect of laughter yoga on physical function and psychosocial outcomes in older adults. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 41, 101252.
Mora-Ripoll, R. (2010). The Therapeutic Value of Laughter in Medicine. Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine, 16(6), 56–64.
Provine, R. R. (2004). Laughing, tickling, and the evolution of speech and self. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 13(6), 215–218.
Saper, B. (1990). The therapeutic use of humor for psychiatric disturbances of adolescents and adults. Psychiatric Quarterly, 61(4), 261–272.