Published on March 30, 2021

couple cooking and laughing together

Do Belly Laughs Improve Your Health? What the Experts Say

Laughing or even smiling can brighten a day in no time, but does it really have an effect on your overall health?

Turns out, the answer is yes. A good belly laugh can help your body in many ways, whether you’re chuckling at an April Fool’s prank or reminiscing with an old friend.

“What I really find as a benefit to laughing is it helps people focus on the positive,” said Jasmine Segbehoe, MA, LPC, Employee Assistance Program (EAP) Counselor with Avera EAP. “There are a lot of times when people get down and focused on negative thoughts and laughter can help move you away from those negative emotions.”

How Laughter Can Help

  1. Laughter helps decreases stress and anxiety by reducing stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. One recent study indicated it also releases endorphins, what’s considered a feel-good hormone. In fact, in can physically relax your body.
    “A deep belly laugh can help reduce muscle tension and can really be a huge benefit of mental health,” Segbehoe said. “There are also a lot of physical benefits people may not realize they’re getting, too.”
  2. Laughter helps you connect with people, which is a big social benefit, particularly in times when we are isolating more due to illness, Segbehoe said.
  3. It lightens the mood and improves quality of life. Not only can it reduce stress but it helps people stay positive. “Having someone with a sunny disposition can make a difference in someone’s day,” Segbehoe said. “By focusing a funny story or the positive, we don’t focus on the stressors and that can create a sense of positivity in your home and work life.”
  4. It’s good for your body. Laughing actually burns calories and gets your heart pumping. Don’t consider it exercise, but it’s better than binge-watching Netflix.

Get More Belly Laughs

Next time you hear the phrase, “laughter is the best medicine” take it to heart. Here are Segbehoe’s tips to getting in more laughs.

  • Get together with friends and family. Do a game night or reminisce of times past. Even if it’s over the phone or video, connecting with these loved ones is sure to make you smile.
  • Do things that make you laugh. This can be as obvious as going to see a comedian or a funny movie.
  • Smile. Believe it or not, the body doesn’t recognize when the body is fake smiling or smiling for real so either way you get the benefits.
  • Surround yourself with happy people. Being around people who have sunny dispositions and like to lighten the mood with a joke is a great way to laugh yourself.

Stress and anxiety are a serious matter if it affects your daily life. If your stress or anxiety is hard to manage, talk to your provider or see if your insurance offers an EAP program that offers counseling.

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