If it feels good, do it, right? Well, not everything that’s pleasurable is healthy — an all-pizza diet is going to allow anyone to live to 100. But it’s really true for laughter. Everyone loves to laugh, at movies, each other, themselves, or the silliest of jokes, and as it turns out, it’s very healthy in many ways.
The body goes through several physiological changes when you laugh. It stretches muscles in the body and face and makes the pulse elevate slightly. In other words, it’s like a tiny workout, and we all know that exercise is healthy.
Some of the muscles worked by laughter: the abdominal muscles, or “abs” as exercise-types call them. There’s a reason why they call it a “belly laugh” — a deeply funny something or other gives those abs a quick workout.
Laughter is a form of exercise then, and exercise (if you’re doing it right, and hard enough) makes for harder, faster breathing. That pumps more healthy, life-giving, and perking-up oxygen to all the body’s tissues.
Thus, laughing it up can help shed away those extra pounds. Scientists say that 15 minutes of laughter a day can burn anywhere between 10 and 40 calories. Added up, that’s around one to four pounds of potential weight loss over the course of a year.
Life’s stressors, big and small, send stress hormones coursing through the body, which can lead to feelings of tenseness and anxiety. Laughter reduces levels of stress hormones — it can literally help calm you down on a physical level.
Elevated blood sugar isn’t healthy, and too much of it for too long can indicate diabetes. While it’s not as effective as a fully-functional pancreas churning out insulin, something funny has a slight effect on blood sugar. In one study, scientists analyzed a group of diabetics. Over a two day period, they were fed the same meal, but on one day sat through a tedious lecture, and on the other, watched a comedy movie. After the comedy, blood sugar levels were lower across the board.
Some studies show that laughter may increase the activation rate of T-cells. These are immune system response cells that lay in wait to be activated. Laughter can trigger them, and then they’re off and running, helping to prevent minor illness or infection.