Under the Hood

Laughter Has These 5 Potential Health Benefits

If your Friday night is going to involve browsing through Netflix, here are some good reasons to pick something from the comedy genre. Turns out laughing not only feels good but could also do you good for your short-term and long-term health.

1. Lower blood pressure

Research has found a positive impact on the blood flow of participants after they laughed at some form of comedy-based entertainment. One study, for instance, observed an increased dilation of blood vessels in people who watched a funny movie. 

Arterial compliance showed improvement for 24 hours after the subjects watched the movie according to lead researcher Jun Sugawara. "Laughing is likely not the complete solution to a healthy heart, but it appears to contribute to positive effects," Sugawara said.

2. Stress elimination

The aforementioned physical responses in the body also activate your stress response before abruptly cooling them down. As a result, we experience a relaxed feeling.

In fact, one study linked the mere anticipation of laughter to reduced levels of three stress hormones — cortisol, epinephrine, and dopac. They were found to decrease by 39 percent, 70 percent, and 38 percent, respectively.

While these are short-term effects, it is possible that laughter could play a therapeutic role in the long run. Laughter therapy has been studied as a stress management tool, especially for those who suffer from anxiety and depression.

3. Improved immunity

Dr. Lee Berk of Loma Linda University, California told TIME how laughter has also been linked to lower levels of inflammation and higher activity of killer cells in the body. These cells help your immune system defend the body against disease.

"Many of these same things also happen when you sleep right, eat right, and exercise," Berk said, which is why he categorizes laughter under traditional healthy lifestyle activities.

4. Pain relief

In a series of experiments, participants were found to exhibit better pain tolerance when laughing with a group. "When laughter is elicited, pain thresholds are significantly increased, whereas when subjects watched something that does not naturally elicit laughter, pain thresholds do not change," the authors of the paper wrote.

Though the phenomenon is not clearly understood, researchers believe that laughter may release brain chemicals or endorphins in the body which can boost our ability to withstand pain. 

5. Physical workout

Do not take this to mean that laughing can replace physical activity or help you lose weight. But a notable bout of laughter — say, around 10 to 15 minutes — could burn up to 40 calories as estimated by Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

In some cases, a really intense bout of laughter can work out a few parts of the body such as the diaphragm, the stomach, and even the muscles of your shoulders.

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