5 Ways Your Brain Loves Laughter

Transcript of Neuro Nugget Video:

How would you describe your sense of humor?

Do you like a longer joke where you are anticipating the punchline? Maybe you’d prefer some classic shorter dad jokes. Or, maybe you find political humor funny. Or slapstick. Maybe you’re someone who loves to watch improvisational comedy.

Perhaps you really appreciate more cerebral humor done with dry wit by and sarcasm. Or, maybe you just love a good old fashioned gag or funny prank. Well, no matter what you find funny, one thing is certain: Humans laugh. There is some thought that our primate ancestors started laughing to signal that a perceived threat wasn’t as dangerous as it seemed, or perhaps to teach their young how to play and get along with each other. But, to this day, no one has come up with a clear and definitive scientific explanation for what is funny.

Here’s what we know about the psychological, physiological, and emotional benefits of laughter:

1. Laughter is a potent releaser of endorphins.

A very recent article published in the Journal of Neuroscience shows that laughing with others releases endorphins (the chemicals that help us to feel good) in our brain via opioid receptors.

The more opioid receptors in the brain, the more powerful the effect. And, yes, these are the same receptors that highly addictive opioid drugs albind to, suggesting that laughter induces euphoria in much the same way that a narcotic might.

2. Laughter contagiously forms social bonds.
Spreading endorphin release through groups promotes feelings of togetherness and safety. Laughter of one member of the group can trigger endorphin release in other members of the group, leading to a chain reaction of laughter among group members.

Laughter has been shown to activate the release of serotonin, the neurotransmitter affected by the most common types of antidepressants. The effect may not last as long as antidepressants, but the research demonstrates that laughter triggers at least a potent short-term dump of the chemical into our brains.

4. Laughter improves your mental health.
Research has found that laughter releases physical and emotional tension, elevates mood, enhances cognitive functioning, and increases friendliness.

5. Lighter protects your heart!
How about that? A scientific study found that laughter seems to have an anti-inflammatory effect that protects blood vessels and heart muscles from the effects of cardiovascular disease.

So, get out there and laugh more! Spend time with people who make you laugh. Tell jokes. Listen to other people’s jokes. Go find some great stand-up comedy near you. Find some comedy podcasts and share them with friends. Practice gratitude. Try laughter yoga (yes, it is a real thing!)

…It’s true, laughter really is the best medicine!

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Posted on

August 16, 2023