We all know that laughing makes us feel good. But it’s only recently that we have begun to understand how and why, and the answers are pretty interesting. With National ‘Let’s Laugh’ Day and International Day of Happiness both on the horizon, we thought now seemed the perfect opportunity to explore why having a good ole chuckle really is beneficial to our health.
Laughing helps to reduce pain
According to research, laughing out loud initiates a release of endorphins which are basically the body’s very own inbuilt opiate-like substance. These endorphins then interact with specialised receptors in cells which blocks the transmission of pain signals. It is also why we feel that gentle high whenever we laugh ourselves silly.
Laughing is good for the heart
The release of laughter-induced endorphins also kicks off a chain reaction that can help our heart. The endorphins activate receptors on the layer of flat cells that line blood vessels, causing the vessels to widen, thus increasing blood flow. This leads to less inflammation and a reduction in cholesterol plaque and in turn, a healthier heart.
Laughing cheers us up
It may seem like something of an ironic chicken-and-egg scenario, but laughing really does cheer us up on a biochemical level. This is because laughing triggers the release of the neurotransmitter serotonin – one of the quartet of our happy chemicals (the other three being dopamine, oxytocin and endorphins). So if you’re feeling a little low then consider watching your favourite funny film or asking a friend to tell you their best jokes.
Laughter lights up the brain
It’s not just our own laughter that is good for us. As well as the chemical releases and increased blood flow, the brain also jumps into action whenever it has to decipher someone else’s laugh. When this happens, connections between different brain regions are forged in quick succession. So listening to laughter is actually pretty good for the grey cells.
Laughter brings us closer together
Whether it’s in a social setting or an intimate relationship, shared laughter has a profound effect on human bonding. Spreading this release of endorphins through groups of people helps to promote a sense of togetherness and safety, and in a more romantic setting it has been proven to establish and deepen a connection between two people.