We’ve been told time and time again that laughter is the best medicine, but besides keeping stand-up comedians in business, there’s been little science to back up this grinning prescription. However, new research has confirmed that a daily dose of comedy might be one of the best supplements you can take. Netflix and chill? Sure. But booting up the right comedy special and having a laugh? You might live longer, too.
A new trial investigated the effects of laughter on health. Researchers analysed a group of adults diagnosed with coronary heart disease. Over three months, they asked half of the participants to watch various comedy shows. The rest were thrown into the deep end, forced to screen thought-provoking documentaries on difficult topics like politics and climate change.
At the end of the study, those peeping comedy shows on the reg had healthier hearts, with their tickers getting better at pumping oxygen and their arteries getting a tad more flexible. And that’s no laughing matter, it confirms that laughter therapy could be a solid intervention when it comes to reducing inflammation and decreasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
It’s a Funny Thing: All Laughter is Equal
The authors of the study were quick to point out that the benefits of comedy aren’t just limited to sitcoms and Netflix specials. You can snag similar heart-boosting rewards from attending a comedy evening or hanging with a funny mate. The goal here is to seek out experiences that make you chortle – even if it’s that YouTube video you’ve seen a thousand times before.
But laughter isn’t just good for your ticker. Humour yourself and you might discover a few more unexpected perks, such as:
1. Reduces Pain
A 2011 study looked at how the feel-good hormones (endorphins) could help patients deal with pain. Participants were shackled into an ice-cold wine sleeve and asked to endure the pain for as long as they could stand. Those watching funny videos managed to outlast their peers.
2. Alleviates Anxiety
A meta-analysis in the journal Brain and Behavior found that a solid dose of laughter (AKA humor therapy) could alleviate feelings of anxiety and depression. Feeling glum? There’s a YouTube compilation for that.
3. Busts Stress
Various studies have found that laughter significantly lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Bonus: it may even activate the reward system of the brain, shifting your mood into the green.
4. Improves Cognitive Function
In one study, those who watched a 20-minute funny movie were able to boost their learning ability and visual recognition.