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How Does Humor Affect Mental Health?

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 29, 2021

Whether it's giggling at something someone said or laughing out loud at a comedy show, a good laugh is healthy for you. Numerous medical studies agree that laughter is a natural mental health remedy and the ultimate stress relief medicine.

Humor and Mental Health

Having a good sense of humor has numerous long-term and short-term mental health benefits.

Short-term mental health benefits of humor. Laughing automatically triggers positive physical and mental changes that help to relax your mind. The short-term benefits of laughter include:

  • Organ stimulation: A good laugh improves your intake of oxygen-rich air. This, in turn, stimulates organs such as the heart, lungs, and muscles. Your brain also releases endorphins — hormones that cause a feeling of pleasure and a relaxed mind.
  • Stress relief: Laughing activates your body’s stress response mechanism. This process changes your heart rate leaving you in high spirits.
  • Relief from tension: Laughter also stimulates rapid blood circulation. When this happens, you may experience a calming sensation that takes away tension and stress.

Long-term benefits of humor on mental health. In addition to the short-term benefits, humor has several scientifically proven long-term effects. Some of them include:

  • A boost to the immune system: Positive thoughts lead to the release of neuropeptides. These are brain chemicals known to fight anxiety, stress, and other related mental conditions. Having negative thoughts may result in chemical reactions in the body that cause elevated stress levels, which in turn works against your immunity.
  • Pain relief: A good laugh causes your body to release natural painkillers, thereby relieving you of physical pain.
  • Positivity: Having a good sense of humor can help you interact and connect with other people. Positive thoughts and good relationships may assist you to cope by taking your mind off difficult situations.
  • Improving mood: Laughter can significantly lift your spirits by reducing anxiety and depression, making you happier.

Tips to Improve Your Sense of Humor

If you are a naturally cheerful person, you may be less prone to depression and anxiety. This, however, doesn't mean happy people are not vulnerable to mental health issues. Life can be overwhelming at times. Even the strongest people break. A good sense of humor is a natural way to keep your stress levels in check. The following tips will help you develop it:

  • Focus your attention on things that make you happy: Humor revolves around happiness. Try to stay happy by doing things that make you smile. A good way to do so is by identifying the simple things that bring good thoughts and rekindle fond memories.
  • Embrace a giving spirit: Not just material things. When in the company of funny people, get involved in making jokes with them. When they make you laugh, return the favor by sharing funny stories.
  • Find something funny on social media: Social media platforms can be a good source of laughter. You can join groups or follow people who are all about humor. This way, you too can learn a few things about being funny.
  • Be discerning: As much as a good laugh is healthy, not everything is funny. Discern what types of jokes are appropriate. It will help to avoid making innocent jokes that turn out to be rude or hurtful to some people.
WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Advances in Physiology Education: "Humor, laughter, learning, and health! A brief review."

Chicago Methodist Senior Services: "Health Benefits of Laughter."

Harvard Health Publishing: "Laugh and be thankful—it’s good for the heart."

Help Guide: "Laughter is the Best Medicine."

National Alliance on Mental Illness: "Using Humor as a Coping Tool."

National Center for Biotechnology Information: "Humor and Laughter May Influence Health IV. Humor and Immune Function."

Painted Brain: "Make Social Media Work For (Rather Than Against) Your Mental Health."

University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences: "How Laughter Can Relieve Stress + Ideas to Laugh it Off."

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