A Laugh a Day Keeps the Doctor Away: Exploring the Health Benefits of Laughter

The Science of Laughter

If you’ve ever wondered why we laugh, there have been different theories proposed to explain this phenomenon and these theories also highlight a physiological benefit of laughing.  One theory, termed The Relief Theory, describes that people engage in laughter because they sense a stressful situation, and laughter can involve a cognitive release of anxiety, as well as a physical release of tension, which lowers overall stress levels (Wilkins and Eisenbraun, 2009).  The Incongruity Theory has also been proposed which focuses on the idea that individuals laugh at things that are surprising to them (Wilkins and Eisenbraun, 2009).  This involves the idea that individuals understand patterns of reality, and also understand when these patterns are challenged.  This undertaking requires cognitive capabilities to put these pieces together.  While this may not seem to have specific benefits, challenging your cognition by understanding incongruities is a beneficial task in itself, as well as expending energy on laughter can both be positive to your health (Wilkins and Eisenbraun, 2009).  The third theory proposed is called The Superiority Theory, which proposes that “laughing at faulty behaviour can reinforce unity among group members”, which focuses on laughter as a way of bonding socially with others.  As we learned through our blog post on Belongingness (Positive Connections: The Importance of Belongingness in a busy World) social connections are very important to our overall well-being.  Other research on laughter has shown that individuals with a sense of humour had increased levels of resilience, decreased levels of psychological distress and overall a more stable positive affect (Cann and Collette, 2014).   


If you’re not convinced of the positive benefits of laughing, think back to the last time you had a really good laugh.  You might even smile thinking of it!  Laughing is a feel-good action, and is effective at enhancing mood.  We’ve put together some tips for you below on how you can take advantage of the positive effects of laughter.

Find laughter in each day – It may be difficult to go a full day without laughing at all or being exposed to laughter – even if it’s just a small ounce of laughter.  Try paying attention to how often you laugh, or how often others laugh around you.  Take note of the effects of laughing and how this can enhance your mood and the moods of others around you.

Remember the stress-relieving properties of laughter  – When you feel like you’re having a difficult day, it may be hard to think of something like laughing.  Try to keep in mind that laughing can actually decrease stress levels by decreasing tension and allowing a physical release.  It may seem like a lot to take a few minutes out of your day to engage in laughter or humour, but why not give it a try?  It may surprise you how rejuvenating it can be – especially on a busy day!

Surround yourself with positivity – Having a hard time finding the humour and laughter in your life?   Why not try incorporating funny elements to your day – this could be through conversations with a colleague, reading the daily comics, watching your favourite comedy tv show, or remembering/reminiscing about humourous times that you have enjoyed.

We hope you’re smiling just reading this blog post, and that you’ve enjoyed a couple of laughs recently.  In the wise words of Charlie Chaplin, “a day without laughter is a day wasted”.


Live with ease,

Carolyn and Steph


References

Wilkins, J., Eisenbraun, A. J. (2009). Humor theories and the physiological benefits of laughter. Holistic Nursing Practice. 23 (6), 349-354.

Cann, A., Collette, C. (2014). Sense of humor, stable affect, and psychological well-being. Europe’s Journal of Psychology. 10 (3), 464-479.