The Joyful Medicine: How Laughter Can Improve Your Well-Being

Ewa Cook
Ewa Cook
August 22, 2023 · 5 min read Sources Verified
group of people laughing together

Whether you're a connoisseur of cheesy puns, a master of dad jokes, or simply adore a good hearty laugh, we've got a prescription for you, and it comes with zero cost and zero side effects: laughter.

Laughter isn't just some random quirk; it's deeply ingrained in the human experience. Our brains are actually hardwired to enjoy a good chuckle, making those funny cat videos never get old!

Let’s dive into the world of laughter, where humor reigns supreme as the ultimate wellness tool.

The Simplified Science Behind Laughter

Have you ever wondered why laughter feels so good? Well, it turns out that when we laugh, our brain and body team up to create a fascinating show of science.

Think of your brain as a conductor orchestrating a symphony, and laughter as the melody it directs. When we find something funny, a signal travels through different parts of our brain, almost like different sections of a band playing their instruments. One part of the brain helps us figure out what's funny – like the section that listens to the melody and understands its tune. Meanwhile, another part of the brain controls the muscles in our face and throat, making them move in just the right way to create those contagious laughter sounds.

The main conductor is a part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex. It helps us figure out what's funny, surprising, awkward, etc. It's like the conductor who tells the orchestra how to play the music. This conductor talks to other parts of the brain that each has a special job.

One part, kind of like the melody players in a band, helps us understand the funny stuff, like the words and feelings that make us laugh. Then there's another part – like the players who use their instruments to make the music – that makes our face and throat move in the right way to make laughter sounds.

the science of laughter compared to a symphony

But the laughter doesn't stop there. More parts of our brain, such as the ones in charge of our emotions, join in. They make the laughter feel even better, like when music makes you feel happy. When you laugh, your brain releases special chemicals called endorphins – little happiness molecules that flood your brain and body, giving you a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Just as a conductor shapes the interplay of musical elements to create a masterpiece, the brain unifies cognitive, emotional, and physiological processes to craft the intricate masterpiece of laughter. This symphony not only entertains but also reflects the remarkable complexity and interconnectedness of human neurobiology.

So, the next time you share a hearty laugh with friends or enjoy a funny movie, remember that you're not just having fun – you're unlocking a whole symphony of brain and body science that's working together to keep you smiling and well.

5 Ways Laughter Can Improve Your Quality of Life:

Get ready for a dose of mirth medicine! Laughter isn't just about tickling your funny bone; it's an all-in-one remedy that can boost your well-being. From stress relief to mood elevation, laughter has many positive side effects.

We’ve all heard the phrase “laughter is the best medicine,” so let’s see why it really is:

laughter prescription

1. Short-Term Stress Relief

Feeling overwhelmed? A good laugh is like a mini vacation for your body and mind! It gets your heart, lungs, and muscles going, making you feel revitalized. Plus, that joyous giggle activates your stress response and then gently calms it down, leaving you feeling relaxed and at ease.

stress relief from laughter

Laughing also helps your body cope with stress better by reducing the release of chemicals that can harm your heart, metabolism, and immune system, so, laughter acts as an antidote to stress.

Oh, and did we mention how laughter helps soothe tension? It's like a massage for your muscles and a much-needed escape from the grip of stress.

2. Long-Term Happiness

long-term happiness from laughter

Laughter is not just a one-time thing; it's also a wellness ally in the long run. As cheesy as this sounds, it is like a superhero for your immune system, boosting it with positive vibes that fend off stress and potential illnesses. Plus, it has a secret power — it can reduce pain by triggering your body's natural painkillers. Talk about a pretty cool sidekick.

Dopamine, another neurotransmitter involved, plays a vital role in the brain's reward system. It's associated with motivation, pleasure, and reinforcement learning. When you laugh, dopamine is released, reinforcing the idea that laughter is enjoyable. This positive reinforcement makes you more likely to seek out situations that lead to laughter, contributing to an ongoing cycle of happiness.

3. Social Bonding

Laughter is a powerful social glue that brings people together and strengthens the ties that bind us.

social bonding from laughter

In Dr. Robert Provine’s book Laughing: A Scientific Investigation, he shares an intriguing study conducted at local malls, where they discovered that only about 10 percent of laughter episodes were generated by jokes. Instead, laughter serves as a bonding function between individuals in a group, heavily influenced by social context and frequently occurring in the presence of others. His study also shows that behavioral contagion – the tendency for people to copy each other – is a key factor in laughter production. Such “contagious” laughter fosters a sense of camaraderie and friendship.

Dr. Provine further speculates that humans possess a unique ability to provoke and respond to contagious laughter at a physical distance, unlike other animals. While teasing is common among primates, true humor, as seen in human laughter, appears to be unique. He suggests that contagious laughter may have played a role in human evolution, promoting social bonding.

Furthermore, laughter triggers the release of other brain chemicals, like oxytocin, which is often referred to as the "love hormone.” It is associated with social bonding, trust, and connection. When we laugh together, it creates a positive and enjoyable atmosphere, strengthening our connections with others and helping us feel more comfortable and connected.

4. Mood Improvement

mood improvement from laughter

Laughter works wonders in lifting your spirits and enhancing your mood. Feeling down in the dumps? Let laughter therapy come to the rescue. It can help you cope with tough situations and connect with others in the most heartwarming way.

Dopamine, as mentioned earlier, not only contributes to pleasure but also helps regulate mood and motivation. As dopamine floods your brain, you experience a sense of happiness and enjoyment.

Addtionally, the act of laughing engages both the mind and body, promoting a sense of mindfulness and presence in the moment. When you're fully engaged in a humorous moment, your mind is temporarily diverted from worries and negative thoughts, creating a mental break and allowing your mood to lift.

So here's a little secret: the more you laugh, the happier you feel, and the more confident you become.

5. Physical Wellness

Laughing offers more than just mental stimulation – it's a bit like giving your body a mini workout. Just as your heart rate increases during physical activity, laughter can lead to a similar boost in heart rate. This surge in heart rate has the potential to temporarily enhance blood flow, which can have positive effects on overall cardiovascular health.

physical welness from laughter

This phenomenon is supported by a noteworthy Norwegian study that tracked over 50,000 individuals for 15 years. The research revealed that individuals with a sense of humor lived an average of eight years longer compared to those without. These findings are particularly related to cardiovascular diseases and infections, in both women and men.

Additionally, laughter has been linked to the release of natural pain-relieving endorphins. This contributes to a heightened sense of physical comfort and well-being, underscoring the significant role of laughter in promoting physical wellness.


Laughter isn't just the best medicine; it's a daily dose of joy that can supercharge your well-being!

So, let's make a pact to follow every mom’s favorite quote: live, love, and – most importantly – laugh.

live love laugh

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