No Joke: Humor Is Healthy - PIH Health

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Published on April 14, 2016

No Joke: Humor Is Healthy

Mom and children laughing

April is National Humor Month, created to raise awareness of this contagious condition.

Mom and children laughingApril Fools’ Day, celebrated by jokesters the world over, kicks off National Humor Month, created to spread awareness of the many benefits of laughing. It may sound like a barrel of monkeys, but decades of research suggest a good sense of humor is the punch line for good health.

The Science behind Your Funny Bone

When you experience something pleasurable, such as hearing a good joke or seeing a funny movie, your brain activates a series of neurons called a reward pathway. The reward pathways triggered by humor cause a sense of euphoria and lead to a reduction in stress.

Chronic, high levels of stress interrupt sleep, suppress the immune system and can cause a host of maladies, from depression and anxiety to heart disease and diabetes. Some people make matters worse by engaging in anti-social behavior when they’re under stress.

Humor, on the other hand, does the opposite. Studies show that in addition to easing stress, humor can decrease blood pressure, reduce pain, boost a person’s social status and even improve cooperation in the workplace. Recent research suggests a link between humor and preventing memory loss.

Humor Therapy No Laughing Matter

Today, humor therapy is often used as part of an integrated regimen to treat chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and asthma. Convinced about the benefits of laughter for older adults, a Washington, DC, hospital has even launched a “laugh café” in its hospital where seniors meet weekly to tell jokes and well … laugh.

So make it a point to look at the bright side of life. Hang out with funny people, laugh at yourself, and take the time to read a humorous book or see a funny movie. While humor is contagious, its only side effects are shortness of breath and a sore belly.

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

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