Stress relief from laughter? It's no joke

When it comes to relieving stress, more giggles and guffaws are just what the doctor ordered. Here's why.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Whether you're guffawing at a sitcom on TV or quietly giggling at a newspaper cartoon, laughing does you good. Laughter is a great form of stress relief, and that's no joke.

Stress relief from laughter

A good sense of humor can't cure all ailments, but data is mounting about the positive things laughter can do.

Short-term benefits

A good laugh has great short-term effects. When you start to laugh, it doesn't just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body. Laughter can:

  • Stimulate many organs. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.
  • Activate and relieve your stress response. A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response, and it can increase and then decrease your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.
  • Soothe tension. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.

Long-term effects

Laughter isn't just a quick pick-me-up, though. It's also good for you over the long term. Laughter may:

  • Improve your immune system. Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. By contrast, positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.
  • Relieve pain. Laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers.
  • Increase personal satisfaction. Laughter can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations. It also helps you connect with other people.
  • Improve your mood. Many people experience depression, sometimes due to chronic illnesses. Laughter can help lessen your depression and anxiety and may make you feel happier.

Improve your sense of humor

Are you afraid you have an underdeveloped — or nonexistent — sense of humor? No problem. Humor can be learned. In fact, developing or refining your sense of humor may be easier than you think.

  • Put humor on your horizon. Find a few simple items, such as photos, greeting cards or comic strips, that make you chuckle. Then hang them up at home or in your office. Keep funny movies, books, magazines or comedy videos on hand for when you need an added humor boost. Look online at joke websites. Go to a comedy club.
  • Laugh and the world laughs with you. Find a way to laugh about your own situations and watch your stress begin to fade away. Even if it feels forced at first, practice laughing. It does your body good.

    Consider trying laughter yoga. In laughter yoga, people practice laughter as a group. Laughter is forced at first, but it can soon turn into spontaneous laughter.

  • Share a laugh. Make it a habit to spend time with friends who make you laugh. And then return the favor by sharing funny stories or jokes with those around you.
  • Knock, knock. Browse through your local bookstore or library's selection of joke books and add a few jokes to your list that you can share with friends.
  • Know what isn't funny. Don't laugh at the expense of others. Some forms of humor aren't appropriate. Use your best judgment to discern a good joke from a bad or hurtful one.

Laughter is the best medicine

Go ahead and give it a try. Turn the corners of your mouth up into a smile and then give a laugh, even if it feels a little forced. Once you've had your chuckle, take stock of how you're feeling. Are your muscles a little less tense? Do you feel more relaxed or buoyant? That's the natural wonder of laughing at work.

April 05, 2019 See more In-depth

See also

  1. 3 simple strategies to help you focus and de-stress
  2. 3 ways to become more stress resilient
  3. 3 ways to learn patience and amp up your well-being
  4. 4 proven ways you can feel happier
  5. A Very Happy Brain
  6. Adapt to put stress in its place
  7. Anger management: Your questions answered
  8. Are your holidays a dietary free-for-all?
  9. Balancing work and life responsibilities
  10. Being assertive
  11. Bridge pose
  12. Can yoga help me keep caregiver stress in check?
  13. Caregiver stress
  14. Caregiver stress
  15. Cat/cow pose
  16. Chase away the winter blues
  17. Child's pose
  18. Cobra
  19. Control email to regain control of your life
  20. Coping with excess information
  21. Coping with job stress
  22. Destress with breathing
  23. Denial
  24. Downward-facing dog
  25. Dreading a family holiday gathering?
  26. Ease stress to reduce your psoriasis flares
  27. Feeling overwhelmed? Take a break
  28. Forgiveness
  29. Great expectations: How to keep them from creating unhappiness
  30. Have you had a good laugh today?
  31. Holidays don't have to break the bank
  32. How decluttering your space could make you healthier and happier
  33. How sharing kindness can make you healthier & happier
  34. How to focus on the present for long-term progress
  35. Job burnout
  36. Job satisfaction
  37. Laugh more, stress less
  38. Learn to reduce stress through mindful living
  39. Learn to say no and enjoy the holidays
  40. Lifestyle strategies for pain management
  41. Manage stress through problem-solving
  42. Manage stress to improve psoriatic arthritis symptoms
  43. Mountain pose
  44. Need better work-life balance?
  45. Stress-relief tips
  46. New School Anxiety
  47. Perfect holiday? Forget about it!
  48. Pet therapy
  49. Positive thinking
  50. Problem-solving
  51. Resilience
  52. Say no, to say yes to less stress
  53. Seated spinal twist
  54. Setbacks and criticism — Don't let them derail you
  55. Slide show: Yoga poses
  56. Social support: Tap this tool to beat stress
  57. Spirituality and stress relief
  58. Standing forward bend
  59. Stress and technology
  60. Holiday stress
  61. Prevent stress setbacks
  62. How to say no
  63. Stress relievers
  64. Stressed out? Skip the late show
  65. Stressed? Set yourself up for success
  66. Support groups
  67. The power of positive thinking
  68. Tired of feeling hassled? Try these tips
  69. To manage anxiety, start with the way you think
  70. Use the 80/20 rule to manage time and reduce stress
  71. Warrior 1
  72. What is hot yoga?
  73. What is reflexology?
  74. Why aromatherapy is showing up in hospital surgical units
  75. Work-life balance