There’s a reason we love flipping on a sit-com or scrolling through hours of funny internet videos when we’re feeling down. Funny things make us feel good, and it’s the perfect way to forget about everything that’s causing stress.
But why exactly do we love funny shows and movies? A lot of this has to do with the physical response we feel when seeing something. In other words, laughter makes us feel great, and it’s something that we often find ourselves craving.
You’ve probably heard someone say “laughter is the best medicine,” and for the most part that’s absolutely correct. While it might not be able to fix a broken bone, laughter might be just the thing to mend a broken spirit.
What Exactly Is Laughter?
Laughter is a voluntary (and sometimes involuntary) response to humorous situations. Researchers have studied laughter for centuries, but it’s not really understood why exactly this is the physical way that humans show appreciation for a funny joke. So unfortunately, this means that there’s very little to discuss when it comes to the biological mechanisms that lead to laughter.
What we do know are some of the reasons why we laugh. Theories of laughter help to explain what we find funny and how it might elicit a thunderous chuckle.
Why Do We Laugh?
Believe it or not, laughter is actually a response to stress. This is likely because, when you laugh, certain muscles are relaxed and endorphins are released. This can make you feel relaxed, calm, and joyful for a short period of time. So if you’re feeling stressed, laughter can alleviate some of the symptoms.
But how does that explain why jokes are funny? After all, a stand-up comic doesn’t stress you out. Well, your body’s stress response is involuntary, meaning that it occurs without you bringing it upon yourself, i.e. on its own. A theory of comedy known as the Surprise/Incongruity Theory helps to explain this phenomenon.
This theory hypothesizes that we laugh at things that are incongruous, or abnormal, when compared to our daily lives. It comes as a result of alleviating the body’s stress response. For example, when a stand-up comic is telling a joke, you might notice that your heart rate increases and you start to feel a rush of adrenaline.
This is actually your fight or flight response kicking in. You know that a punchline is going to occur, but you have no idea what it might be. Your brain might start trying to think about the obvious way out of the given comic’s situation in the same way that it can try to lead you away from an abnormal situation in real life.
Then, when the punchline occurs, it’s probably something completely different from what you were expecting. As a result, your body can relieve some stress, as it no longer needs to worry about the incongruity of the joke. In turn, laughter is believed to be a way for you to balance out the feelings of stress that you had felt up until that point.
It’s a pretty interesting theory, and it helps explain why we laugh after being scared by a friend or falsely thinking the coat rack was a man in the corner of the room. Laughing makes us feel calm because it relieves the sensations associated with stress.
Mental Wellness Benefits of Laughter
Laughter can be the perfect medicine for mental health and wellbeing. On top of alleviating stress, there are so many different things that a hearty laugh can accomplish.
Ease Anxiety and Tension
When you laugh, your brain releases endorphins. These act as both neurotransmitters within the brain and as messengers throughout the entire body. They’re chemicals responsible for relieving feelings of pain and stress.
During laughter, these chemicals are spread throughout the body as if they are eliminating anxiety and diluting a stressful situation. This will lead to feelings of bliss, which can help alleviate feelings of anxiety that you might be having.
Help Shift Perspective
Making jokes at your own insecurities or stressors is a common defense mechanism. This is because it creates a psychological distance between you and the stimuli. While this can lead to self-image insecurities if done excessively, laughing at yourself can be a great way to make life’s heated moments feel a bit more cool.
When you take a step back and laugh at stressful situations, you can see them from a different perspective. This will likely prove that the given problem isn’t nearly as bad as you once believed, avoiding those overwhelming thoughts and conflicting mindsets.
Physical Benefits of Laughter
Laughter isn’t just a great remedy for mental ailments: it might alleviate some physical issues as well!
Improves Heart Health
When you laugh, your heart rate increases and the amount of oxygen in your blood increases as well. This can improve the function of blood vessels and increase blood flow, which can protect you against heart attack or other cardiovascular related problems.
Remember how laughter releases endorphins? While those can relieve stress, they can simultaneously relieve pain. Endorphins are hormones that your body releases in aiding with pain relief, so laughing can really get those flowing.
These might temporarily bring a sense of relief to achy joints and seasoned muscles for a brief period of time. It can make you feel less tense overall, which can let your muscles relax more than normal.
That might sound crazy, but it’s no joke — laughter can burn calories. Of course, it’s not a replacement for going to the gym, but laughing for 15 minutes a day can burn upwards of 40 calories a day. That equates to nearly four pounds of weight loss per year!
But every calorie counts, and combined with all of the other benefits, why not spew out a few chuckles throughout the day? You can even try laughing hysterically while at the gym for extra calorie burn. You might want to do this in your home gym versus one filled with other people, but either way, at least you’ll be feeling good!
Social Benefits of Laughter
You’ve probably heard that laughter is contagious, and that’s because it is. Laughing feels good, so when we see someone else doing it too, we want to get in on the action. It’s exactly why sitcoms have a laugh track in the background.
Laughter Brings Us Together
Sharing humor is one of the funnest ways to connect with the people around you. Making someone else feel good because of a funny joke or story is a surefire way to get a boost of joy. And because of how contagious laughter is, if you get a group chuckling, you’ll be laughing too!
Laughing lets you let go of inhibitions and be more spontaneous. Being able to let loose in a ground of friends or family is a sign that you feel comfortable with the social circle you’ve been able to build.
You can’t enjoy a laugh with someone unless you really take the time to engage with them. It means you’ve switched off your electronic devices and are fully invested in developing a relationship with those around you. It’s a powerfully connective force. Surround yourself with the people who make you the most happy and you’ll be able to spread the joy even further.
Laughter Can Resolve Disagreements
There’s nothing more stressful than having a skirmish with a friend or a loved one. But using humor can be a great way to ease the tension.
If you’re at the crux of an argument, making a joke to lighten the situation is a great way to lower everyone’s levels of stress. It’s a way of communication that builds up a relationship rather than bringing people down.
No one likes to feel sad, angry, stressed, or anxious. We yearn for happiness, joy, and tranquility. The act of laughing can help do that, making it a natural and free way to feel more positive.
Laughter is actually a response to stress, which helps explain why it feels so good. Mentally, it releases endorphins to boost mood, shift perspective, and ease tension. Physically, laughter can relieve pain temporarily, improve cardiovascular health, and even burn a few calories every now and again.
Not to mention, laughter is best shared with friends, as it can bring people together and easily diffuse conflicts or stressful arguments. Laughter is an all-around force for good. And if that doesn’t give you a reason to smile, then we don’t know what will!
Laughter really is the best medicine. A smile can improve your mood, alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression, and strengthen your immune system. When paired with the natural balancing effects of Smile’s CBD products, there’s no challenge you can’t tackle. It’s a match made in heaven.