May 1, 2023
The Benefits of Laughter
Most people agree that a good laugh is definitely not a bad thing, but the benefits of laughter go beyond a cheery mood. Humor can benefit your overall well-being as well as how you can bring more laughter into your life.
According to the Mayo Clinic, laughing has both short and long-term benefits. In the short-term, laughter can stimulate organs such as the lungs, heart, and muscles by enhancing oxygen intake and increasing the endorphins released by your brain. This increase in oxygen can even improve your brain function, including memory. Laughing can also create a relaxed feeling by activating and relieving your stress response, increasing then decreasing your heart rate and blood pressure. Additionally, a good laugh can soothe tension by stimulating circulation and aiding muscle relaxation, which can reduce the physical symptoms of stress.
The benefits of laughter can last longer than just an afternoon, too. A good sense of humor can improve your immune system by releasing neuropeptides that help fight stress and potential illness. In contrast, stress can actually weaken your immune system through the overproduction of cortisol. Laughter is also known to relieve pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers.
Not sure whether it is a painkiller or painful moans; either way BetterLife employees have their own resident joke teller. Training and Sales Support Specialist, Eric Garland, is known for his dad jokes. Nearly every meeting with Eric either begins or ends with his witty contribution. He feels that when you have fun at work, you will make better contributions and that if a joke helps relieve some pressure and bring smiles to the faces of his coworkers, then he is happy to contribute.
Eric may not have the medical background, but Mayo Clinic supports his thinking.* The research says that laughter can increase personal satisfaction and help you connect with other people, both important components to overall well-being. Plus, if you are seeking to improve your mood long-term, a regular laugh can help by lessening stress and the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Looking to improve your blood pressure? Studies have shown that laughter can decrease resting blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease.
“I didn’t actually start this dad joke thing at BetterLife,” Garland said. “The person holding this position before me had shared some jokes, and when I stepped into this role, I also inherited the joke responsibility.” Who knew that supplying dad jokes would fall under the “other duties as assigned” part of the job description!
Making sure he has a joke handy has become part of Garland’s natural preparation for meetings, as he never knows when he might be put on the spot. Thankfully another BetterLife employee gifted him with a book containing a year’s worth of jokes. He also tends to jot ideas down on slips of paper, or if all else fails, pulls up a quick Google Search.
Beyond the physical benefits, a good sense of humor also has an impact on an individual’s risk for anxiety and depression. A study by psychologists Herbert Lefcourt and Rod Martin, Ph.D. showed that stressed people with a well-developed sense of humor became less depressed and anxious than others who had a less developed sense of humor. This is likely due to laughter’s stress-relieving properties and effect on personal satisfaction and sense of belonging.**
These attributes are evident in Garland. Fellow employees and agents appreciate his welcoming smile, positive attitude, and commitment to delivering quality work. While he is not known for his dad jokes outside of work, he fills his laughter tank by spending time with friends and family. Garland explains, “It doesn’t matter what we are doing, as long as we are doing it together, I enjoy it.” He also finds happiness in socializing with people, even strangers. In Garland’s case, those strangers usually become friends. Once he even invited the entire staff of his favorite Mexican restaurant over for Thanksgiving!
So how do you improve your sense of humor? According to Psychology Today, you can’t improve your sense of humor once it’s fully developed as an adult. What you CAN do, though, is identify your humor profile and use that to build a library of what makes you laugh. If you’re someone who likes serious humor, slapstick comedy is most likely not going to make you laugh or help you reap the benefits. In contrast, if you’re someone who has a silly sense of humor, embrace it instead of trying to seek out more serious comedies.
And finally, as Garland does, don’t forget to surround yourself with people who bring you joy. Says Danny Bega, MD, a Northwestern Medicine neurologist, “The idea of laughter is an important one. We’ve known it as a healing mechanism. It’s important to surround yourself with other people who make you happy and be engaged with others.”