There are many benefits of laughter, and as Groucho Marx once said, “If you are not having fun, you are doing something wrong.” It turns out that the effects of not having fun or finding something to laugh about goes deeper than just feeling gloomy. In fact, there are a lot of things that go “right” when humor is a part of your life.

Laughter and Longer Life

Frequent laughter, as shown in this study, often results in a lower prevalence of cardiovascular disease. This includes heart disease, the leading cause of death for men and women in the U.S.

Studies also show that anger, hostility, anxiety, depression and other stressors cause constriction of the arteries, which may partially explain why these emotions increase the risk for heart disease. According to the American Institute of Stress, one of the many benefits of laughter is healthier arteries.

Laughter – a Stress Buster and Immunity Builder

Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress. It helps to maintain fluid balance, and blood pressure, while regulating some body functions that aren’t crucial at the moment (immunity, digestion, etc.).

But sustained high levels of cortisol can suppress your immune system, increase your blood pressure, and negatively impact your sleep, mood, and energy levels.

Not only does cortisol contribute to obesity by increasing your appetite and food intake, but it can cause you to become insulin resistant, which is important because insulin is the hormone that helps bring blood sugar levels down.

Laughter reduces the level of stress hormones and increases the levels of health-enhancing hormones, like endorphins. Laughter also increases the number of T-cells and natural killer cells (NK cells), which fight off infections.

Research has shown that just thinking about having a good laugh can boost health-producing hormones. In 2006, researchers investigating the interaction between the brain, behavior, and the immune system found that simply anticipating an amusing experience boosted health-protecting hormones (such as beta-endorphins, which alleviate depression, and other hormones which help with immunity).

Your body has many ways to protect you. Your lymphatic system is a highly efficient cleaning system that is the backbone of the immune system. It continuously collects waste materials from all over the body (dead blood cells, pathogens, toxins, etc.) that are deposited into the tissues. It then cleans that fluid and returns it back into the circulating blood. It also removes excess fluid and waste products from the interstitial spaces between the cells.

Studies have shown that belly laughter increases the flow of lymphatic fluid, thereby increasing the system’s effectiveness.

Don’t Forget to Laugh

Every day you try to take care of yourself—take your medications, eat healthy foods, exercise, pursue an interest or activity—but somewhere along the way laughter may have become less of a priority. One study has shown healthy children laugh as much as 400 times per day, but adults only 15 times per day.

The benefits of laughter can help you live better and longer. Or, as someone put it: “He who laughs, lasts!”

For more tips on senior health, visit Bethesda’s Health & Wellness blog.