Health Benefits of Humor

Ever since I can remember, I have always enjoyed to make myself and others laugh. Humor has always played an important role in my life as it was key in helping me develop my personality and outlook on life through childhood. What I did not realize however, was why or how it made me feel better about myself. For this research paper, I wanted to find out just exactly how humor affects us in our day to day lives, and whether or not it played a key role in having a longer, more enjoyable life.

From my research, I found many different ways that humor can influence our emotions and physical health. Everyone enjoys a good laugh every now and then, but is there more to it than that? How does it affect our bodies in various ways from everyday to 50 years from now? What are the true benefits of humor?

There are many positive health effects related to a humor-filled life. According to an article entitled “Laughter is the Best Medicine” by Melinda Smith and Jeanne Segal, there are physical benefits in our response to humor in our every day lives.

These benefits are split into two different sections: short-term and long-term. One example of the short-term benefits of humor would be that laughter induces relaxation. It gets many muscles moving in your body. One reason muscles get tense is lack of oxygen flow. Once you laugh as a response to humor, it increases the flow of oxygen to the muscles resulting in a more relaxed, more energy-filled body. Another short-term benefit is that laughter causes pain and stress relief. This is achieved by intense stimulation of organs in the body Nicholson 2

which leads to increased circulation and blood flow. As for the long-term effects, they can be just as rewarding. For example, one thing laughter can do in the long run is improve the overall health of the heart. This happens because, like stated earlier, laughter increases blood flow. Since the heart is the organ that regulates all blood flow in the body, naturally the vessels and arteries in and around the heart become strengthened and use to increased stimulation.

One last long-term benefit from humor is that it can reduce stress levels and boost the immune system. It was concluded that this is possible because negative thoughts turn into chemical reactions in the body by bringing more stress into your system and therefore decreasing your immunity (In contrast, positive thoughts (like those caused from experiencing humor) release neuropeptides that help fight stress hormones (Smith, Segal 2013).

It’s fascinating to see how humor can affect our bodies physically, but it can also do all kinds of things for us mentally. These effects can also be split into short-term and long-term. In an article called “Humor, Laughter, and Physical Health” by Rod Martin, it was found that for short-term, laughter releases excess endorphins which gives us a sense of calm and well-being. It also helps take our minds off things that might be troubling us.

The long-term mental effects of humor are some of the key aspects of how to lead a happier life. One example is that consistently being around humor shifts our perspectives towards life. This allows us to see life in a more realistic, less threatening light. Living a humor-filled life also allows you to be able to deal and handle with stressful situations or events more easily (Martin 2002).

The last way humor can affect our lives positively is from the social benefits related to it. In his book The How of Happiness, Sonjay Lyubomirsky states that shared laughter is one of the most effective ways for keeping friendships fun and exciting. Laughter adds joy to our relationships.

It also helps mend our bonds and heal resentments or disagreements. Humor allows you to be more spontaneous and less defensive. Laughter helps you forget about judgements and criticism. You also get to enjoy the effects of lowered inhibitions, which makes you a more outgoing and social person Nicholson 3

(Lyubomirsky 27).As I have shown from my research, it is incredibly important to integrate humor as a part of your everyday routine. Since it has many powerful positive benefits on your physical and mental health, it would be foolish not to. Making yourself laugh prolongs your life by relaxing a body made tense from the normal stress of every day life.

It is the mind’s natural way of giving the body much needed relief and release. Laughter is a birthright that is one of our first responses to the world as infants and our awareness of humor should always be exercised when possible.

One of the easiest and most efficient ways to bring more humor and laughter into your life is just to simply try to smile more often. Smiling is contagious and physically speaking, the beginning of laughter. In fact, in an book titled “Humor and Life Stress”, author Herbert Lefcourt says that smiling can be possible without experiencing a funny event. It is our response to something that we find even mildly pleasing.

Sometimes humor and laughter are private and shared only within a small group. However, most of the time this is not the case. Another way to add humor to your life is by moving towards laughter. What this means is that any time you hear laughter, approach it and ask what is so funny.

People are generally happy to share something funny because it gives the chance to laugh about it again and be amused by the humor they can bring to you. In an article entitled “Test for Laughs” by Caroline Bollinger, she states that this goes along well with the last way of bringing laughter into your life, and that is spending time with fun, joyful people. These people tend to be the kind that laugh most easily, whether it be at themselves or something else. The laughter and humor they enjoy or create is contagious, and can help brighten your mood (Bollinger 56).

All of this is good in figuring out how you can bring humor into your life, but it also important to discover how you can develop your sense of humor into something more special and rewarding. To do this, you have to start by taking yourself less seriously. No one wants to be the uptight, deathly Nicholson 4

serious person that never laughs at anything. Sometimes, we experience events that are clearly not humorous and are sad occasions. Most of the time, however, events in life are not overwhelming joyous or sad, it all depends on your attitude towards the event and whether you choose to laugh at it or not.

So, let us look over several ways to further expand your sense of humor, with the main one of them being just to laugh at yourself. According to the article “Humor Styles, Positive Personality, and Health” written by Arnie Cann, the best way to do this is by thinking about the times that you did take yourself too seriously.

Also, always attempt to laugh at different aspects of life that normally you would frown upon. For example, look for the good in a bad situation. This will improve the mood of yourself and others around you. The most important thing that affects our sense of humor is stress (Cann 23).

Try to stay stress free and when you are stressed, make sure you do things that ease the stress and make you relax. The main point of all these different tips is to allow you to take life lightly. We only have one, and you can prolong it by keeping a good attitude and “working out” your sense of humor.

In conclusion, the ability to laugh by yourself and with others not only allows you to have a healthier, more enjoyable life, but it also helps you bond with others and solve personal problems. It is no secret that people who incorporate more humor and play into their lives end up finding their selves renewed and in better relationships. Life will always bring obstacles that we have to overcome, and humor is key in letting this happen.

When you take yourself too seriously, you become your own problem, and it makes it hard to feel creative and think about how to improve yourself. But when you allow yourself to play with the problem, you can morph it into an opportunity for yourself to grow into the person you strive to be. To summarize the paper, I talked about the physical and mental benefits of humor and how it can improve our lives.

Also, how to incorporate humor into your daily live and how to improve your sense of it. What I wanted to find out for this paper was how exactly humor can improve and prolong your life. However, I discovered much more and that humor is actually the key to having a productive, enjoyable life. Without it, life would be bland, boring, and unsatisfying. Humor is Nicholson 5

what makes us human, and without it life would be nothing as we know it today.

Nicholson 6Works CitedBollinger, Caroline. “Test for Laughs.” Prevention 57.2 (2005): 56. Academic Search Premier. Web. 27 Nov. 2013.

Cann , Arnie . “Humor Styles, Positive Personality, and Health .” Europe’s Journal of Psychology 181.2 (2010): 213-235. Academic Search Premier. Web. 28 Nov. 2013.

Lefcourt, Herbert. Humor and Life Stress. New York: Springer, 1986. Print.

Lyubomirsky, Sonjay . The How of Happiness. New York: Penguin, 2008. Print.

Martin, Rod. “Humor, Laughter, and Physical Health.” Psychological Bulletin 127.4. (2001): 504-519. Skynet. Web. 27 Nov. 2013.

Smith, Melinda , and Jeanne Segal. “Laughter is the Best Medicine.” Help Guide 50.1 (2013): 12. Help Guide. Web. 27 Nov. 2013.