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The Power and Benefits of Laughter

By Eva Timothy, Professional Practice Extension Assistant Professor

Couple laughing

Are you feeling stressed? Are you struggling to find enjoyment in your life and relationships? With our ever-present fast-paced lives, we may often experience increased levels of stress. Despite the stress, there is something small we can all do that has the potential to impact mood and wellbeing in many ways-laugh. In our culture, the phrase that reminds us to find joy and express it in a jovial manner to cure what ails us is ‘laughter is the best medicine.’

Many of us have likely heard of the health advantages of laughter. Martin (2002) shares the following benefits supporting the idea of laughter being beneficial to our health:

  1. Laughter releases endorphins that allow us to better manage pain. 
  2. Laughter decreases cortisol levels related to stress. 
  3. Full-bellied laughter burns calories and causes our muscles to relax. 
  4. Laughter improves the body's blood flow and respiratory functions: the carrying of oxygen to blood cells and the dispelling of carbon dioxide. 
  5. Laughter can improve mood states, which impacts our immune system, and help reverse the negative effects of stress.

Another facet of laughter’s benefits lies within relationship health. Those who are single report a desire to find a partner who possesses a sense of humor or can make them laugh (Wilbur & Campbell, 2011). In fact, research shows that men are more likely to use humor when getting to know a woman and women are more likely to associate positive uses of humor as a determining factor for whether someone is a good match for them (Wilbur & Campbell, 2011).  Hall (2017), as well as Bazzini and colleagues (2007), found that those who employed and appreciated the use of humor in a relationship experienced greater satisfaction with their partner. Thus, using humor in your relationship can lead to positive outcomes.

Here are some suggestions of how to use humor in your relationship to decrease stress and increase relationship satisfaction, consider trying the following:Find jokes you think are comical and share them with your partner. 

  • Find jokes you think are comical and share them with your partner.
  • Watch and try out some Laughter Yoga (e.g.- this video).
  • Visit your local improvisation or comedy theater. If you are stuck at home, try searching for your favorite comedian on a streaming app and enjoy.
  • Share comical childhood experiences with your partner. 
  • Play a board/card game together. *Make sure to pick a game you both like.
  • Go on a date that requires you to get in touch with your inner child (e.g., finger painting your favorite scene)