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No Joke: Laughter Really Is the Best Medicine

Hannah Howard

The ancient wisdom is more than a cliché, it’s a scientific truth. I’ve been there—wallowing in a truly sad state of despair, when the unthinkable happens: something funny breaks the misery and suddenly, I’m cracking up. What happened?

Whether it’s a giggle or a guffaw, laughter is powerful stuff. It releases endorphins, your body’s all-natural painkiller and pick-up. Laughing changes you, psychologically and physiologically. Here’s how:

Kiss Anxiety Goodbye

You can’t ruminate, freak out, stress out, or panic while you’re cracking up. Laughter dissolves negative emotions. Stress’s physical symptoms include tension; glee combats that by stimulating circulation and encouraging muscle relaxation for up to 45 minutes after a good belly-laugh. A great rom com makes a surprisingly and wonderfully effective anecdote for distress.


The best memories are often inside jokes, hilarious happenings, utter silliness…or just sharing a laughter-inducing moment with someone you love. Laughter connects people, fosters intimacy, and sparks joy. If you make people laugh, they’re guaranteed to relish your company.

Get a Workout

While you’re feeling awesome, laughter is doing big favors for your body. It gets your heart pumping, and burns about as many calories as going for a walk. The act of laughing stimulates your abdominal muscles—they expand and contract to tone your tummy. So much more fun than sit-ups!

Defend Yourself

Laughter is a good friend to your immune system. Stress, depression and sadness decrease your immunity. In contrast, happy and hilarious thoughts release neuropeptides that guard against illness. Some studies have concluded that humor can up the numbers of infection-fighting antibodies and the levels of immune cells in our bodies. Take your Vitamin C and watch your favorite comedian.

Protect your Heart

A good laugh helps blood vessels function and increases blood flow. And a fit of giggles lowers blood pressure, which helps reduce the risk of heart disease. Researchers at the American Heart Association found that people with heart disease were 40 percent less likely to laugh compared to people of the same age without heart disease. Being quick to laugh is a great personality trait, and a smart heart health move.

Get Perspective

Humor is a fantastic teacher. It allows us to lighten up, and see situations in a softer, gentler light. Laughter can help empower us to express ourselves and live joyfully, and ignite creativity and communication. Plus, it’s rewarding in itself. Who doesn’t love to laugh? Life is short, laugh more!

Hannah Howard, journalist, copywriter, marketing strategist and food expert, has written for The New York Times, AMEX OPEN forum, Serious Eats, Grubstreet, Refinery29, and