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Laugh More For Better Health

I seem to be drawn to writing about stress reduction this month, and I just realized why – I’m in the middle of packing for a cross-country move! I need my own advice. But, as long as I’m pulling out all the stops to manage my own packing stress I may as well share with you.

First, I’ll remind you that stress has unfavorable effects on our health. Stress tends to keep us in a state of physical “alertness” even when we’re not directly threatened. That can mean consistently higher blood pressure, difficulty sleeping, a faster heart rate, and even higher blood glucose levels. Over the long term these responses take a toll on health. So, stress is nothing to laugh about. But, it turns out that laughing is an effective way to reduce stress, and, more importantly, the negative physical effects of stress. And, there are both short term and long term benefits.

For instance, one study measured the after-meal rise in blood glucose levels on a group of people with type 2 diabetes two hours after they ate the same meal on different days – except one meal was eaten before a boring lecture and the other before a 40 minute comedy performance. The group’s average post-meal blood glucose was 50 mg/dl lower after the comedy show than after the lecture, showing an immediate blood glucose benefit to laughing. Another study split a group of people with type 2 diabetes who were at high risk for heart disease from high blood pressure and high cholesterol into a “laughter” group and a “non-laughter” group (the laughter group was given an assignment to regularly watch funny videos of their choice). After 12 months, the “laughter” group’s “good” HDL cholesterol levels were 26% higher, and their C-reactive protein (CRP – a measure of unhealthy general inflammation) levels were 66% lower than the “non-laughter” group’s. 1

Finding ways to reduce stress, including laughter, is very important for our health, but sometimes we look at relaxation as self indulgent. In reality, laughter and leisure activities can be important diabetes management tools that just happen to be enjoyable. Give stress reduction the attention it deserves – have a good laugh.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Hayashi, Keiko, et al. "Laughter lowered the increase in postprandial blood glucose." Diabetes Care 26.5 (2003): 1651-1652.