ARTICLES / General /Laughter
is the Best Medicine/
By Helen Hunter, ACSW, LSW
When was the last time you had a really good laugh?
The scientific definition of laughing is a “successive,
rhythmic, spasmodic expiration with open glottis and
vibration of the vocal cords, often accompanied by
baring of the teeth and facial expression”. That doesn’t
begin to tell the story of what laughing does for us,
however. The bottom line is that laughing is medically
Laughter establishes or restores a positive emotional
climate and a sense of connection between two people. In
fact, some researchers believe that the major function
of laughter is to bring people together – the more
social a person is and the more social support a person
receives, the more likely that laughter will result from
that social connection. Mutual laughter and play are an
essential component of strong, healthy relationships. By
making a conscious effort to incorporate more humor and
play into your daily interactions, you can improve the
quality of your relationships.
What are the Physical Effects of Laughing?
Laughing makes people feel good for a reason. Studies
have shown that laughter boosts the immune system and
triggers the release of pleasure-inducing neurochemicals
in the brain. The immune system, which contains special
cells that are responsible for defending the body
against infection, have been shown to increase during
the act of laughing. In the central nervous system, the
brain releases powerful endorphins as a result of
laughing. Endorphins are natural, morphine-like
compounds that raise the pain threshold, produce
sedation and induce euphoria (commonly called a “natural
high”). In other words, we feel better when we laugh
because endorphins reduce physical and mental pain.
While this may be a wonderful feeling, laughing has
other benefits as well:
During a laugh, respiration, heart rate and blood
pressure temporarily rise. This causes oxygen to surge
through the bloodstream that then results in lower blood
Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and
increases blood flow, which can help protect against a
heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.
Laughter reduces pain and allows toleration of
Laughter reduces blood sugar levels, increasing glucose
tolerance in diabetics and non-diabetics alike.
Laughter relaxes the whole body, relieving tension and
stress. It has been shown that following a good, hearty
laugh, muscles in the body are relaxed for up to 45