Comedian Kevin Hart once said, “Laughter heals all wounds, and that's one thing that everybody shares. No matter what you're going through, it makes you forget about your problems. I think the world should keep laughing.”
But Hart's words show that he's more than just a talented comedian; in fact, he's full of scientifically-backed wisdom. In particular, this statement shows that he has his finger on the pulse of current scientific research about laughter, and its positive effects on your health, relationships, and even your cognitive abilities.
Read on to learn some more specific reasons why you should have a good laugh as often as possible ...
1. Humor can have a notably positive effect on your relationship.
Who doesn’t like to share a good laugh with their partner? Enough said.
But laughing with your significant other isn't just fun. It's actually a powerful force that can help strengthen your relationship. Humor can bring shared positive emotions, a feeling of connection, and defuse uncomfortable situations. In addition, one study found that in heterosexual couples, humor was associated with greater feelings of intimacy and relationship satisfaction amongst women. However, it is important to note that the type of humor associated with this is positive (supportive) humor, not the passive-aggressive humor or jabs that people sometimes use.
2. The ability to laugh and make others laugh increases your sex appeal.
Let me put it this way: if you have a good sense of humor, you may also have an easier time getting a date! In one study, participants read vignettes and then rated the characters on their attractiveness and desirability. Those who were perceived as having a good sense of humor were seen as more attractive and desirable as mates than those who had an average or lower sense of humor.
Another study showed that people who were rated as funnier had a higher number of lifetime sexual partners. The researchers concluded that from an evolutionary perspective, humor is associated with mating success.
3. Those who laugh more often have a greater sense of psychological well-being.
This finding seems pretty intuitive, and is supported by research. In a sample of patients with COPD (constructive pulmonary disease), having a sense of humor was associated with fewer depressive and anxiety symptoms, and a better overall quality of life.
Another study indicated that people who are able to laugh at themselves tended to be more cheerful overall, with a greater sense of wellbeing.
4. Being able to laugh in the face of challenges breeds resilience.
Setbacks and disappointments will happen in life, and being able to take a step back and laugh is associated with greater resilience. For example, one study based on a series of interviews with former Vietnam prisoners of war who exhibited good coping skills suggested that their use of humor was instrumental in being able to deal with their difficult pasts.
5. Humor can increase your pain tolerance ... really.
Do you have an upcoming trip to the dentist or a surgery? Well, you'd better meet up with a funny friend or turn on a comedic TV sho, as laughter may just help you to deal with any resulting pain!
In a study of students, those who were exposed to humorous stimuli were found to have a greater ability to withstand pain compared to a control group.
An additional study indicated that increases in pain tolerance are likely due to the laughter that results when you see something funny (as opposed to the fact that they just say something pleasant). Why? It's neurochemical: laughter causes the release of endorphins, which are nature’s natural stress and pain relievers.
6. Laughing makes you smarter.
Have some studying to do? You might just want to have a good laugh first.A study of healthy older adults found that those who were exposed to either a Red Skelton comedy or a montage of America’s funnest Home Videos showed better performance on a memory task compared to a control group who sat calmly for the same period of time. In addition, the humor group’s cortisol (stress hormone) levels showed a greater decrease than the controls.
So, if you want a fulfilling life, make sure to laugh well and laugh often. As Maya Angelou said "Laugh as much as possible, always laugh. It's the sweetest thing one can do for oneself and one's fellow human beings.”
Patricia Thompson, Ph.D., is a corporate psychologist, management consultant, executive coach, and author. She received a B.A. in sociology from the University of Toronto and later earned her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Georgia State University. Thompson works with organizations and individuals to help them meet their career and/or personal goals. Her advice has been featured in The Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Fast Company, and more. You can take her emotional intelligence quiz here.