The Health Benefits of Laughter

When doctors were asked to contribute to a new wing at their hospital…

Allergists voted to scratch it.

Cardiologists didn’t have the heart to say no.

Gastroenterologists had a gut feeling about it.

Neurologists thought the administration “had a lot of nerve.”

Ophthalmologists considered the idea short-sighted.

Pediatricians said, “Grow up!”

Radiologists could see right through it.

Podiatrists thought it was a big step forward.

Psychiatrists thought it was madness.

Pathologists yelled, “Over my dead body!”

Surgeons decided to wash their hands of the whole thing. 1

Did you laugh, even a little bit, while you were reading the list above? If so, you just did yourself a favor. Research shows that laughter has a positive effect on both health and the healing process. The positive effects of laughter can also make you more resilient, increasing your ability to cope with challenges. Experts say that laughter benefits you in at least 10 ways. Here’s what laughing does for you:

1. Boosts your immune system by increasing infection-fighting antibodies
2. Relaxes muscles throughout your body. After a good laugh, muscles can stay relaxed for as long as 45 minutes.
3. Reduces tension, anxiety, and stress
4. Lowers bad cholesterol
5. Raises good cholesterol
6. Gives you more energy
7. Protects your heart and cardiovascular system by increasing blood flow and making blood vessels more elastic
8. Improves your social connections
9. Shifts your perspective into a positive direction
10. Triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural “feel good” chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and temporarily relieve pain. 

As it turns out, the old saying, “Laughter is the best medicine,” may actually be true. Scientists now know why a sense of humor is so important. Laughing counteracts the effects of stress by stopping the release of the stress hormone, cortisol, and triggering the release of dopamine, which has a calming, anxiety-relieving effect. There are psychological benefits, too.  Introducing some humor into a difficult situation helps a person feel more in control, which makes the situation seem easier to manage. The ability to find something funny in a tough situation also helps dispel feelings of anger and fear, which have a negative impact on health over time. 

Humor is especially helpful to both those with long-term illnesses and their caregivers. Maggie, a full-time caregiver for her husband, who has dementia, said, “If you don’t have a sense of humor, you’re just not going to make it!” Your situation, like Maggie’s, may not be particularly funny. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to laugh about. For the sake of your mental and physical health, at least once each day, look away from your responsibilities and problems and find something that makes you laugh. Stay in touch with your most upbeat friends. Look for funny books, movies, and Internet videos. Even when those things can’t be found, laugh anywaybecause your body can’t tell the difference between genuine and “fake” laughter. The benefits of laughter accrue regardless of why you are laughing. So, today and every day, go ahead and laugh—because it’s really good for you! 

The 10 “Warning” Signs of Good Health:2
Note: if several of these signs appear, you may rarely need to visit a doctor.

  1. Regular flareups of a supportive network of friends and family.
  2. Chronic positive expectations.
  3. Repeated episodes of gratitude and generosity.
  4. Marked tendency to identify and express feelings.
  5. Compulsion to contribute to society.
  6. Lingering sensitivity to the feelings of others.
  7. Habitual behavior related to seeking new challenges.
  8. Tendency to adapt to changing conditions.
  9. Feelings of spiritual involvement.
  10. Persistent sense of humor.


  1. Excerpted from The Capitalist Spirit: How Each and Every One of Us Can Make a Giant Difference in Our Fast-Changing World, by Yale Hirsch (John Wiley and Sons, 2010).
  2. Adapted from a posting on a bulletin board, author unknown. Online at

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