When was the last time you had a good laugh - like a laughing out loud, hearty-style laugh? The last few years have been heavy, but there’s no better time than the present to take a break and find something to make you laugh. It turns out it’s not only good for your soul, but per the American Lung Association and Mayo Clinic, the simple act of laughing can actually have tangible benefits for your health.
Laughter and Your Lungs
Every laugh is a little workout for the respiratory, pulmonary, and cardiovascular systems. Laughter engages your diaphragm and expands the tiny air sacs in the lungs (alveoli), releasing stale air for a more effective exhale.
Propelling Oxygen Through the Body
Expanding your alveoli also means that the area for oxygen exchange is larger, so more oxygen can enter your lungs. This can have a domino effect, improving oxygen distribution and exchange throughout the body as the oxygen-rich air stimulates your heart, lungs, and muscles.
Laughter and Mental Health
Obviously, a sense of humor can help relieve stress, but did you know that this reaction is as physical as it is mental? A good laugh actually releases endorphins and enkephalins, endogenous opioid peptides that have been found to help relieve stress and do the work of a natural painkiller. Given how negative thoughts can manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body’s immune response, healthy stress management can also have long-term implications for immune health.
Laughter with COPD
More research is needed to determine the benefits of laughter for people with respiratory issues; however, we did find two studies looking at humor and laughter in COPD patients. One study found that a sense of humor is beneficial to emotional functioning and quality of life among patients with chronic lung illnesses. Another study suggests that laughing could actually help reduce air trapping and shortness of breath.
The bottom line is that life is too short to be taken seriously. Laughter is contagious, so always find a reason to laugh and pass it on to others. You never know whose day you’ll make better, and now you know the lasting effects are far-reaching.