You've probably heard the phrase more times than you can count, but maybe never thought much about whether or not there is any truth to the idiom, "laughter is the best medicine." If that's the case, don't worry, we've taken it upon ourselves to take a deeper dive into the familiar saying so you don't have to. And you might be interested to find out that laughing actually does provide a number of benefits to both your physical and mental health—and pretty significant ones, at that. This is why a number of medical experts have recently spoken publicly about the importance of laughing right now. Given that we are living with a global pandemic, significant economic strain, and political turmoil, it may be hard to maintain your sense of humor—but that's exactly why it's more important than ever to do exactly that. Here's why doctors say laughter is good for your health. And for more on the importance of wellness in your life, A Nutrition Expert Just Said This Is More Important Than Losing Weight.
It reduces your risk of heart disease.
In an April 2020 study of older women and men in Japan published in the Journal of Epidemiology, researchers found that study participants who laughed more had a lower risk of severe cases of heart disease than those who laughed less. This is likely because when you laugh, your brain releases nitric oxide, a chemical that has been proven to relax blood vessels, lower blood pressure, and prevent clotting.
"Heightened stress magnifies the risk of cardiovascular events, including heart attacks and strokes," Michael Miller, MD, a cardiologist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, told The New York Times on Oct. 1, 2020. "Having a good sense of humor is an excellent way to relieve stress and anxiety and bring back a sense of normalcy during these turbulent times." And for more fascinating trivia about your ticker, check out these 23 Amazing Things You Didn't Know About Your Heart.
It improves your short-term memory.
Not only does laughing help keep your heart healthy, but it can also have several cognitive benefits, experts say. In a 2014 study published in the journal Advances, researchers from Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, Calif. found that humor and "mirthful laughter" was associated with significant improvement in older adults' delayed recall, or short-term memory, and learning ability. And for more on your memory, check out these 13 Reasons You're Forgetting Things All the Time.
It makes you more resilient to adversity.
The times we currently find ourselves in are nothing if not full of challenges and adversity. But you can make things a little more manageable just by remembering to laugh and smile every now and then. In fact, according to a 2007 study published in the journal Emotion, survivors of abuse who smiled and laughed more during therapy were more likely to be in a positive place in life two years down the road than those who laughed and smiled less. And in if you need some help finding humor in dire circumstances, there are a few techniques you may want to try.
"Charlie Chaplin once said 'In order to truly laugh you need to be able to take your pain and play with it,'" Paul Osincup, president of the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor, told The New York Times. "Write down all of the most difficult and annoying things about quarantine. Play with those. See if you can find any humor in your situation."
It can help you live a longer life.
Want to increase your chances of living a long and healthy life? Make sure you laugh as much as possible. According to a 2016 study in Psychosomatic Medicine, "The cognitive component of the sense of humor is positively associated with survival from mortality related to [heart disease] and infections in women and with infection-related mortality in men." The findings, the authors say, indicate that having a sense of humor is an effective method of protecting your health. And for more helpful information delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.