Physical Benefits of Laughter

Laughter can:

  • help diabetes, heart disease, and asthma
  • boost the immune system and help fight infection
  • burn calories
  • relieve stress
  • improve breathing
  • relax muscles
  • increase pain tolerance

Psycho-physiological responses may include:

  • triggering changes in muscles, in the immune system, and hormone production
  • leading to more positive emotions, which improves quality of life
  • paving the way for better strategies for coping with stress
  • increasing social skills, leading to health-enhancing benefits

Social Benefits of Laughter

Laughter also:

  • binds people together. It synchronizes the brains of speaker and listener so that they are emotionally attuned.
  • builds rapport.
  • establishes–or restores–a positive emotional climate and a sense of connection between two people.
  • defuses anger, anxiety, and conflict.
  • enhances teamwork.
  • attracts others to us.
  • allows a positive way to deal with stressful things.
  • enables you to have fun at work.

Why Humor?

If you do not have access to the full text of these articles, try searching for them in your library databases. They should be available there.

  • Theories of Humor – There are many theories of humor which attempt to explain what humor is, what social functions it serves, and what would be considered humorous.
  • Is Laughter the Best Medicine? Humor, Laughter, and Physical Health – This article from Current Directions in Psychological Science examines research evidence for the popular idea that humor and laughter have beneficial effects on physical health. Overall, the evidence for health benefits of humor and laughter is less conclusive than commonly believed.
  • Laughter: A Serious Business – A short article about the benefits of laughter.
  • Laughter: The Best Medicine – An article from WebMD about why, for some, laughter is the best medicine.
  • Mirth and Medicine: Hope or Hype? – from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Proponents of laughter-based therapies cite research demonstrating the medical value of mirth, although more sober-minded investigators warn that such claims may be exaggerated. Still, these programs confer benefits that, though less tangible, may be just as real.
  • Stress relief from laughter? Yes, no joke! – An article from the Mayo Clinic about stress relief through laughter
  • The Benefits of Humor in Nursing Education – from Journal of Nursing Education
    Humor can be an effective, multipurpose teaching tool for nurse educators to convey course content, hold students’ attention, relieve anxiety, establish rapport with students, and make learning fun. When combined with other teaching methods, humor can enhance student learning.
  • The Psychological Benefits of Humor – from Pastoral Psychology
    This article provides a review of empirical studies of the psychological benefits of humor in order to answer the question whether a religion of humor is likely to have psychological benefits and, if so, what these might be.
  • Sense of Humor, Stable Affect, and Psychological Well-Being – from EJOP: Europe’s Journal of Psychology
    A good sense of humor has been implicated as a quality that could contribute to psychological well-being. The mechanisms through which sense of humor might operate include helping to reappraise threats, serving as a character strength, or facilitating happiness. The current research attempts to integrate these possibilities by examining whether a good sense of humor might operate globally by helping to maintain a more stable positive affect.
  • Virtuous Laughter: We should Teach Medical Learners the Art of Humor – from Critical Care (London, England)
    Humor can be used to reduce stress, address fears, and to create effective health care teams. However, there are forms of humor which can be hurtful or discriminatory. In order to maximize the benefits of humor and to reduce its harms, we need to teach and model the effective and virtuous use of humor in the intensive care unit.
  • Sense of Humor and Social Desirability: Understanding How Humor Styles Are Perceived – from Personality and Individual Differences
    Humor can be expressed in many ways, some of which may not be seen as displaying a good sense of humor or as being socially desirable. Behaviors associated with adaptive humor styles were judged as more socially desirable, with maladaptive humor uses being rated as clearly socially undesirable.