Did you know laughter has health benefits? That is not a joke. Laughter truly does have health benefits.

It relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, and it leaves your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes. Laughter boosts the immune system by decreasing stress hormones and increasing immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, which improves your resistance to disease.

Laughing triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain. Also, laughter protects the heart. It improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

Calories are burned by laughing. However, it is not a replacement for going to the gym, but one study found that laughing for 10 to 15 minutes a day can burn approximately 40 calories, which could be enough to lose three or four pounds over the course of a year.

Have you noticed that when you are angry that if someone makes you laugh you really do start feeling better? Laughter does lighten anger’s heavy load. Nothing diffuses anger and conflict faster than a shared laugh. Looking at the funny side can put problems into perspective and enable you to move on from confrontations without holding onto bitterness or resentment.

Laughter may even help you to live longer. A study in Norway found that people with a strong sense of humor outlived those who did not laugh as much. The difference was particularly notable for those battling cancer. For mental health, laughing adds joy and zest to life, eases anxiety and tension, relieves stress, improves mood, and strengthens resilience. In regard to social health benefits, laughter strengthens relationships, attracts others to us, enhances teamwork, helps defuse conflict, and promotes group bonding.

On average, children laugh 400 times a day, while adults laugh about 15 times. These benefits of laughter may make you want to embrace your inner child even more with moments that promote laughter.

Everyone has a different sense of humor, and developing an improved sense of humor may take some time. You can start by learning to laugh at yourself. Then, attempt to laugh at situations rather than regret them. Life is absolutely too short to be serious all the time, so surround yourself with reminders to lighten up, such as an amusing toy, funny computer screensaver, or picture of your family having fun.

Do not dwell on the negative or negative people. Deal with stress. One great technique to relieve stress in the moment is to draw upon a favorite memory that always makes you smile, such as something your child did or something funny a friend told you. Try to not let a day go by without laughing. Think of it like exercise or breakfast and make a conscious effort to find something each day that makes you laugh. Set aside 10 to 15 minutes and do something that amuses you. The more you get used to laughing each day, the less effort you’ll have to make.

For more information on this or other family and consumer sciences related topics, contact Shelly Barnes, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension agent for UT Extension in Wilson County. Barnes can be reached at sphill24@utk.edu or 615-444-9584.

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