Benefits of Laughter for Health and IVF Success
As the days grow shorter and darker, I’d like to draw attention to the many benefits that come with the lightness of good humor and laughter. You’ve probably heard the adage that laughter makes good medicine, and in fact there are numerous studies that break down its multi-layered benefits. For women perusing conception through IVF, laughter has even been shown to increase pregnancy success.
It may seem counterintuitive to think that something as stimulating as laughter can have a calming effect, but studies show that is just one of its numerous positive effects. Laughter is considered a positive stress (or eustress) that reduces stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. From a Chinese medicine perspective, laughter moves qi and blood, which has a harmonizing effect on our physiology and emotions. Simply the act of smiling causes the brain to release neuropeptides that help fight off stress. These open us up for the interplay of feel good neurotransmitters like endorphins, serotonin and dopamine, which are key for pain relief, boosting mood and a healthy gut.
Calming stress hormones pays forward health dividends in the form of increased blood flow, better regulation of blood sugar and metabolism, reduced inflammation, increased immune function, and improved memory. Hearty laughter stimulates the organs, helps bring in oxygen and soothes muscle tension.
As further testament to the amazing power of humor, a 2011 Israeli study showed significantly higher rates of pregnancy (36.4% compared to 20.2%) in patients exposed to medical clowning immediately after frozen embryo transfer. It seems there truly is no downside to laughter!
Hopefully you have more than one person (or pet) in your life who can always be counted on for a good laugh, but if that’s not readily available then find another way to incorporate humor into your day. Initiate some jokey banter with whomever you’re interacting with, breeze through a few humorous memes, or sit down with your favorite comedy read or show. One study suggests that even a forced smile initiates a positive physiological cascade—so you can truly fake it ‘til you make it! I’d bet it grows into something more deeply enriching before too long. What would life be like if we all could have a robust belly laugh each and every day?
What’s not to love about medicine that is enjoyable, free, and a great way to connect with others? Here’s wishing you good health and lots of laughs this holiday season and throughout the year ahead.
Friedler, S., Glasser, S., Levitan, G., Hadar, D., Sasi, B. E., & Lerner-Geva, L. (2017). Patients’ Evaluation of Intervention by a Medical Clown Visit or by Viewing a Humorous Film Following In Vitro Fertilization and Embryo Transfer. Journal of evidence-based complementary & alternative medicine, 22(1), 47–53. https://doi.org/10.1177/2156587216629041
Friedler, S., Glasser, S., Azani, L., Freedman, L. S., Raziel, A., Strassburger, D., Ron-El, R., Lerner Geva, L. (2011) The effect of medical clowning on pregnancy rates after in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer. Fertility and Sterility, 95(1), 2127–2130.
Strean W. B. (2009). Laughter prescription. Canadian family physician Medecin de famille canadien, 55(10), 965–967.
Woodbury-Fariña, M. A., & Antongiorgi, J. L. (2014). Humor. The Psychiatric clinics of North America, 37(4), 561–578. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psc.2014.08.006