Humor can be one of the best stress relievers. Scientifically, laughter has been shown to release endorphins—the body’s own natural pain killer and feel-good chemical. From a physical standpoint, laughing is like an aerobic exercise. Researchers have shown that one hundred good belly laughs have the same health benefits as fifteen minutes on a stationary bicycle. Laughter has also been shown to strengthen the immune system so it can fight off viral and bacterial infections. Good, solid laughter can even increase the natural killer cells of the body that destroy abnormal precancerous cells. Laughter really is good medicine.
From an emotional standpoint, using humor can be a good coping strategy. When you laugh about something, you can momentarily forget your tension, and your body automatically relaxes. Humor can also give you a fresh approach to life’s daily stressors. It can help you keep a sense of proportion and perspective about situations in which you find yourself. After all, there will be many things—other people’s action or life events—that will be out of our control.
Humor can bring enjoyment to life and dramatically interferes with thoughts and feelings of depression and anxiety. Have you ever noticed that when you are laughing the tension of anxiety fades and levels of sadness can be lifted?
People who laugh often are usually more social, pleasant to be around and report feeling less physical and emotional tension. Patients who use humor to cope with medical conditions report that it feels like taking a break from worry, pain and fear. This distancing can help you take a break from your current distress while at the same time mobilizing your coping resources for future coping needs.
Managing stress is critical to your health. Stress has been shown to be an independent risk factor for heart disease and it reduces the effectiveness of the body’s immune system. This compromised immune function puts you at risk for developing numerous chronic diseases. So, take care of your health and go ahead and laugh.