Why Your Family Needs A Good Laugh!

Why Your Family Needs A Good Laugh!

If you think about some of your best memories, chances are what makes them so unforgettable is the way they made you feel at the time. Those emotions of bliss and elation are difficult ones to discard. People or activities that induce happiness make us want more of them—it’s human nature. These days our society has pretty high expectations in terms of what constitutes “fun”. So much planning and preparing in the quest–yet feeling great is right in front of us all the while.

Perhaps this requires a reevaluation and reminder of what really makes one feel good.
There are very few things in life that are free, always available for the taking, and provide so many benefits. Laughing is one of them. Choosing to lighten the mood and have a laugh forms family bonds amongst members and reminds each of us life doesn’t have to be as serious as we sometimes make it.

Provine (2000) a renowned expert on laughing suggests that for children who can’t yet speak, tickling and the subsequent laughing that most often follows, provides the entrance into social relationships. According to his research, babies typically laugh 300 times a day, peaking at around age five. Adults only laugh around 20 times per day—quite a difference.

Perhaps it’s the growing commitments as we age that sucks the life out of the capacity to see the humor around us. It could also be we become complacent and accepting of our life circumstances or conditions and find little funny about them. This knowledge that we’re clearly not the laughing beings we once were, should be a huge wake up call for us to reprioritize what we want out of life and set us on the path to getting it.

What laughing brings to our lives…
According to researchers, laughing has been suggested as a contributing component to social bonding (Dunbar, et al., 2012). It provides us with a cognitive distance from pressures so issues we’re facing in our life can be viewed from a different perspective. This space reduces the negative emotions associated with our problems (Kuhlman, 1984). This is one of the reasons we feel so much stress relief after being around people with whom we can laugh.

If you haven’t already noticed, most of us enjoy ourselves when we’re with someone who is quick-witted. Ironically, making others laugh indirectly benefits health positively as well. Individuals who are funny to be around may have greater levels of support, as most have a strong social network of friends—people take pleasure in their company. These strong social networks serve to buffer stress and have health-enhancing effects (Cohen & Wills, 1985).

The reasons why laughing feels so great…
Foremost, laughing releases endorphins, the “feel good” chemicals of the brain. Endorphins are neurotransmitters that serve as our body’s own opiates. Typically set off by fear or stress, and similar to morphine or codeine, the endorphin release creates a feeling of euphoria. Higher endorphin levels triggers feelings of pleasure and decreased stress.

Most typically known as the chemicals released after a hard workout often termed the “runners high”, researchers claim that several minutes of intense laughter produces results similar to those of exercising on a rowing machine or stationary bicycle for roughly 10-15 minutes (Fry, 1992).

Laughing also decreases the production of bad stress related hormones (Fry 1994) and is regarded as a type of healthy stress called eustress (Milsum, 1985). It makes you feel better, elevates one’s mood, and often provides an improved outlook on life.

Kuhn’s (1994) research on laughing found it impacted the entire body with numerous physiological benefits. Laughing disrupts the normal breathing pattern, increases ventilation, clears mucous plugs, and accelerates the exchange of residual air (Fry & Ruder, 1977), exercising the lungs and chest muscles improving respiration (Lloyd, 1938). This in turn enhances blood oxygen levels.
Laughter also initially produces an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, increasing artery and vein circulation (Fry, 1994).

In addition to laughter having positive benefits, so does having a solid sense of humor. Research shows it reduces stress, (Lefcourt & Thomas, 1998; Wooten, 1996), restores hope and energy, (Bellert, 1989), and reduces depression (Overholser, 1992).

Incorporating more laughter into family life is a great way to enhance bonding, produce an expanded outlook on one’s existence, create wonderful memories, and also serve as a role model for your children that they shouldn’t lose the fun as they grow up.

Life should be about having a good time—not wasting it worrying about things that in a few years won’t even matter. If you have the capacity to decrease your stress, improve your health, and increase your happiness, what’s stopping you?


Bellert, J. L. (1989). Humor. A therapeutic approach in oncology nursing. Cancer Nursing, 12(2), 65-70.

Cohen, S. & Wills, T.A. (1985). Stress, social support, and the buffering hypothesis. Psychological Bulletin 98 (2), 310–357.

Dunbar, R., Baron, R., Frangou, A., Peirce, E., Van Leeuwen, E. J. C., Stow, J., et al. (2012). Social laughter is correlated with an elevated pain threshold. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London/B, 279, 1161-1167. doi:10.1098/rspb.2011.1373.

Fry, W. F.(1992). The physiological effects of humor, mirth, and laughter. Journal of the American Medical Association, 267(4), 1857-1858.

Fry, W.F. (1994). The biology of humor. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research 7 (2), 111–126.

Kuhlman, T. (1984). Humor and psychotherapy. Homewood, IL: Dorsey.

Kuhn, C. C. (1994). The stages of laughter. Journal of Nursing Jocularity, 4(2), 34-35.

Lefcourt, H. M., & Thomas, S. (1998). Humor and stress revisited. In W. Ruch (Ed.), The sense of humor: Explorations of a personality characteristic (Humor Research Series, Vol. 3). Berlin, Germany: Morton de Gruyter.

Lloyd, E. L. (1938). The respiratory mechanism in laughter. Journal of General Psychology, 10, 179-189.

Milsum, J. H. (1985). A model of the eustress system for health/illness. Behavioral Science, 30, 179-186.

Overholser, J. C. (1992). Sense of humor when coping with life stress. Personality and Individual Differences, 13, 799-804

Provine, R. R. (2000). The Laughing Species. Natural History, 109(10), 72.

Wooten, P. (1996). Humor: An antidote for stress. Holistic Nursing Practice, 10(2), 49-56.

Incorporating more laughter into family life is a great way to enhance bonding, produce an expanded outlook on one’s existence, create wonderful memories, and also serve as a role model for your children that they shouldn’t lose the fun as they grow up.
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