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How Laughing Can Affect The Immune System

How Laughing Can Affect The Immune System

Everybody loves a good laugh – but not many people know the true science behind laughter, including what’s really going on within the brain and body during a good bout of laughter! The study of laughter even has its own branch of science known as gelotology. By studying the brain, scientific researchers have developed a way to figure out what exactly goes on when laughter is happening and what part of the brain drives it.

While some cognitive responses are confined to one area of the brain, laughter isn’t quite the same – it comes from various regions in the brain, not just one. When a person laughs, electrical patterns are produced and a wave moves through the cerebral cortex. Negative charges in the electrical wave are associated with laughter, whereas positive ones are associated with no response at all.

Other areas of the brain also activated during laughter. The left side of the cortex is tasked with analyzing a joke, the frontal lobe is activated, and the right side of the cortex uses its power of intellect to understand the joke. The occipital lobe is also involved in brainwave activity and motor reflexes are stimulated to physically respond to the joke.

While this may all seem interesting, it doesn’t tell us about how laughter affects the body from a health standpoint. Did you know that laughter has been shown to help with immunity? But how can a simple giggle do such a thing?! Read on to learn how laughing can affect the immune system.


Image by Brian Lundquist on Unsplash: Is laughter truly the best medicine?


How does a good laugh affect the body?

When looking at laughter as a driver of better health, there is a lot of research that states exactly why people should have a good chuckle more often. The health benefits of laughter according to science are:

  • A reduction in stress hormones: Studies have shown that laughter lowers levels of stress hormones in the body, which can be helpful in battling chronic stress-induced diseases. This can also aid in the defense against or management of mental health conditions such as depression.
  • Physical benefits: There are various physical benefits associated with laughter because of the way it encourages movement within the body. It contracts your abs and can give your heart a good workout.
  • It can change your perspective: When looking at emotional health, studies have shown that people who laugh off stressful situations are more likely to view those situations as challenges instead of threats to wellbeing.

These three positive effects on your health are great reasons to find more laughter in your life – and when it comes to immunity, there are even more.

Laughter and Immunity

Looking at laughing and the immune system, research has found that there is a direct correlation between the two. Considering things from the angle of stress hormones, research has shown that regular bouts of laughter can actually reduce these hormones within the body. The real reason this is of benefit to the immune system is because of how high levels of stress hormones actually hinder the system’s ability to do its job.

Take, for example, the stress hormone cortisol. It is often released during acute stress and can actually help your immune response by limiting inflammation within the body. However, if you are chronically stressed out, there will be an overabundance of cortisol within your system. When that happens, the body can become more inflamed, and chronic inflammation damages the immune system by weakening its ability to fight against pathogens.

Chronic inflammation also has the ability to hinder the body’s defense system in a way that makes it more susceptible to certain diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, autoimmune disease, and neurodegenerative disorders. This is because of the cellular responses that develop within the body when chronic inflammation is present.

During periods of high inflammation, levels of cytokines (small proteins that help regulate the immune system) are released. When there are too many of these proteins present, tissue and organ damage can occur slowly over time.


Image by Gabrielle Henderson on Unsplash: How does laughing help the immune system?


How does laughter boost the immune system?

Research on laughter and health has found that laughter actually boosts a person’s immunity because of the way it encourages the immune system to function on a cellular level. For example, studies have looked at the effects laughter has on natural killer cells, which are immune system cells designed to rid the body of pathogens. When a person laughs on a regular basis, these cells’ ability to kill becomes stronger. It’s as if laughter is training them to be better soldiers for the body if it comes into contact with a pathogen!

It has also been found that because regular laughter is associated with positive thoughts and feelings, it can drive a boost in the immune system. While research has focused on positive wellbeing as opposed to laughter in particular, the two often go hand in hand, which draws the conclusion that people who laugh more have a better and stronger immune system.

When thinking of the body’s defense system, you wouldn’t necessarily make the connection between laughter and immunity. However, science says that there is a correlation between the two – so laughter really could be the best medicine after all.


Featured image by Jamie Brown on Unsplash

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