How Laughter Can Help Us Find Joy, Even in Challenging Times

A little laughter can go a long way in alleviating stress and boosting our immune systems.

bbernard / Shutterstock
bbernard / Shutterstock

You’ve likely heard the phrase “laughter is the best medicine.” And while it may feel hard to laugh in times of uncertainty — whether related to the pandemic or something else in our lives — finding silver linings (and a few things to laugh at) can actually help us ease stress and anxiety.

Giggling at a family member’s witty remark — or even your own joke — seems like a simple, human reaction to something that sparks joy, but there’s actually a boatload of science behind why laughter makes us feel so good. The Mayo Clinic reports that engaging with our sense of humor can go a long way in relieving stress by causing several physical changes in the body. A bout of laughter often leads to an uptick in endorphins, which is then followed by a decrease in heart rate and blood pressure, resulting in a relaxed feeling and improved circulation, which can ease muscle tension. 

In the long term, the Mayo Clinic suggests that laughter can actually improve our overall health by boosting the immune system. The positive thoughts that stem from laughing release neuropeptides in the body that fight stress, which can depress the immune system. 

Laughing together — whether joking around over a FaceTime call or chuckling at a meme your friend sent you — can also help us keep our social ties strong even when we’re not seeing each other as much in person (or at all). A 2017 study published in the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior found that shared laughter can increase relationship well-being. 

Though it might be hard to do in the midst of a challenging moment, sharing a comical moment with a loved one might be just what you need to shift your mindset. You can watch a favorite comedy movie, text a family member about a funny memory, or even play a lighthearted game (Zoom charades, anyone?) to get your friends involved and laughing. A little humor will go a long way in spreading positivity, even when you’re feeling stuck. 

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