Intuitively, humans just know laughter is one of the best tools we have for dealing with stress – and science backs that up! In fact, research into laughter has gone even further, to the point of showing how it has a plethora of benefits for the mind and body alike.
Here are some specific examples that prove laughter truly is the best medicine:
- Laughter protects your heart. Research has shown laughter has an anti-inflammatory effect that protects blood vessels and heart muscles from the damaging impacts of cardiovascular disease. How this happens isn't entirely understood at this time, but it seems related to lessening the body’s stress response, which is directly linked to increased inflammation. Regular, hearty laughter should probably be part of every heart disease prevention program!
- Laughter has an effect similar to antidepressants. Laughing activates the release of the neurotransmitter serotonin, the same brain chemical affected by the most common types of antidepressants, SSRIs. It’s not clear from the research how long this effect sticks around, but the burst of brain activity laughing triggers is undoubtedly potent, at least for short periods of time.
- Laughter releases endorphins. One of the most recent studies shows that laughing with others releases endorphins in the brain—our natural “feel-good” chemicals—via opioid receptors. The more opioid receptors a given person has in their brain, the more powerful the effect.
- Laughter fosters brain connectivity. Not all laughter is the same, and it turns out that decoding a laugh is more challenging than it seems. One study found differences in how we perceive, for example, joyous laughter versus taunting laughter versus tickling laughter, each of which activates connections between different brain regions. What this all amounts to is that laughter fosters rigorous brain region connectivity that kicks in when we hear a laugh, as our brains work to decipher what sort of communication is coming through.
- Contagious laughter forms social bonds. The endorphin effect described earlier also explains why social laughter is so contagious. Spreading endorphin release through groups promotes a sense of togetherness and safety. Each brain in a social unit is a transmitter of those feelings, which triggers the “feel-goods” in other brains via laughter. It’s like a game of endorphin dominoes. That’s why when someone starts laughing, others will likely laugh as well, even if they’re not sure what everyone is laughing about.
At Patel Podiatry, we provide effective foot and ankle services, as podiatrists do, to help you overcome problems that cause pain and take away your quality of life. Something that separates us from other practices, though, is the fact we care about you as a person – and this means understanding the benefits of compassionate care and helping patients to laugh a little more.
Science is continually showing that our feelings, moods, and attitudes have effects on our physical health. We strive to put you in the best mood possible so your body can most effectively heal itself.
For more information about our practice, call (203) 876-7736 and one of our team members will be happy to help!