Laugh your way to happiness

The science of laughter
Laugh your way to happiness

Why did the funny bone avoid BODY WORLDS? Because it couldn't find a "humerus" reason to go!

Laughter is a universal language that goes beyond any border and is understood anywhere on the globe. It creates lightness in serious situations. We say that laughter is the best medicine, but why is that so? We explore the world of laughs, giggles and chuckles to find out why funny makes us feel good!

Why do we laugh?

Social bonding

It is likely that laughter can be traced back to our evolutionary history, when the first human species learned to communicate with each other. By laughing, they demonstrated friendliness and it is easy to bond as a group, which is very important for survival. And what is important for survival for the human race continues to evolve. Hence the thigh-slapping and the grousing - humans are social animals and can easily form a group with our shared chuckles.


Probably the most important reason why we laugh is to communicate and socialize. Even a newborn child uses her laughter to indicate that she is happy, thus repeating the positive thing that person is doing.


Laughing can also be a coping mechanism. In difficult moments, people can use humor to ease their pain. Even so much that people that in a stressful, fight or flight situation some people burst out laughing. It might seem paradoxical in a situation that is no laughing matter, but these misplaced giggles relieve stress and help downplay the event.

What does laughing do to your body?

You might have ever had a laughing fit that lead you into muscle pain in your abdominalis. This is because when you are laughing, you are contracting your core. Your heart rate decreases, which makes you feel calmer and more content.

Psychologically, there is a lot going on when you are laughing as well. Have you wondered why it feels so good? Well, when you are laughing your body releases endorphins, better known as the hormones that make you feel good. They can even influence a feeling of well-being and act as natural painkillers, as it lowers your adrenaline levels. Your chuckle also reduces stress hormones like cortisol. A good joke can help relax your mind!

What are the benefits of laughing?

Feel-good hormones

As stated before, your body releases hormones that make you feel good and gives you an energy boost. Besides these short term effects, research has shown that there are some long-term effects of laughing on your overall happiness.

Immune boost

The hormones that you keep releasing the more you laugh, have been shown to boost up your immune system. The white blood cells that are released with your giggles, are responsible for fighting off infections. Your laugh increases the production of antibodies. These proteins work to neutralize toxins and bacteria.

Improving memory

In one study participants had to take a short term memory test. After, one group selected a couple videos that they found funny and watched those for 20 minutes, the other group just sat calmly for those 20 minutes. After this break they did another memory test. The outcome? The group that watched funny videos improved their test significantly! This suggests that humor can have great cognitive benefits.

Fake it until you make it: Trying out laughing therapy

How does one cooperate more laughter in their life if your friend is not the writer of this blog? What about a new sport: laughing yoga. This is the epitome of ‘fake it until you make it’. Laughing is contagious, how often did it happen to you that someone’s laugh was more funny than the joke they were trying to tell? And even when you do a fake giggle, you will probably burst it out!

Laughter yoga even combines yoga movements, deep breathing and laughing to stimulate the emotional well-being. Both laughter therapy and – yoga are being used in therapeutic settings, thanks to their effects.



The Happiness project

When was the last time you laughed out loud? Well, practice your best jokes, watch videos of people falling or invite your funniest friends over: because laughing is good for your health! It is a powerful mechanism that impacts our happiness and health. It goes beyond cultural boundaries and brings people together.

At BODY WORLDS The Happiness Project Amsterdam the search for happiness is the core of our exposition. Learn more in this exposition about the effects of happiness to our body and how we can reach a happier fulfilled life.