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Why A Good Laugh Is Good For You

There are short-term and long-term benefits for cracking yourself up

Laughter may not really be the best medicine, but it can still give your health a boost. Most of us seek out a laugh when we want to improve our mood, or even just for the fun of it. But there’s something else going on in the body when we laugh. Exactly how and why human beings came to laugh is still a bit of a mystery, but the benefits are tangible.

Dr. Francisco Fantauzzi-Nazario

“When we laugh, first there’s an extra intake of oxygen,” explains Francisco Fantauzzi-Nazario, MD, of St. Joseph’s/Candler Primary Care on Eisenhower. “Your face muscles stretch and as you come out of it, your blood pressure and heart rate go down. It’s similar to the relaxed feeling you get after exercise.”

Endorphins are released and muscles relax during and after laughter. But there are also long-term effects for people who consistently seek out humorous experiences, including stress relief and improved immunity.

“Laughter can also help with pain tolerance,” Dr. Fantauzzi-Nazario says. “Meanwhile, being focused only on a problem all the time is detrimental to your health. But laughing at something funny reminds us that it is not all bad and simply that we’re alive.”

Dr. Fantauzzi-Nazario is known to be quite affable with patients and even cracks a joke or two himself. But that wasn’t always the case.

“When I was a young doctor, I used to sit people down and warn them, ‘Watch your diet! Watch your blood pressure!” he recalls. “Who would want to return to a doctor like that? Now that I have more wisdom, I take it easy, smile and help you get where you need to go at a lighter pace. Medicine is serious, but sometimes it can be too serious.”

He suggests that people who feel they can’t find anything to laugh about shouldn’t give up the search. Whether it’s silly pratfall comedy or dark satire, whatever gets that physical reaction from you is the way to go.

“My favorite is the Three Stooges,” Dr. Fantauzzi-Nazario says. “But I always hated Roadrunner cartoons. The coyote is just trying to get a meal, and he was constantly getting destroyed!”

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