Laughing and Blood Pressure – What’s Going On?
Laughing and blood pressure – it’s a serious subject. Does laughing lower your blood pressure or raise it? This is no laughing matter for those with high blood pressure…
Funnily enough, laughing raises and lowers your blood pressure. Sounds like a bad joke? Read on.
What’s the relationship between laughing and blood pressure?
Basically, the relationship between laughing and blood pressure varies depending on how often you’re laughing.
Laughing briefly raises your blood pressure while you’re laughing. But if you laugh regularly – we’re talking deep belly laughs here, not polite chuckles – it can actually lower your blood pressure in general. In other words, regular laughing lowers blood pressure even when you’re not laughing.
Sounds funny? Well, several studies are now demonstrating the mental and physical benefits of laughing. A Japanese study of middle-aged men and women who attended regular sessions of laughter yoga experienced significant reductions in blood pressure. The laughing sessions lowered blood pressure immediately after a laughter session. And after doing a laughter session weekly for three months, their average blood pressure readings were lower too.
In other words, the effect of regular laughing seemed to persist for some time.
A similar effect was found in stressed Indian information technology-workers, with blood pressure drops of around 6 mm/Hg after just a few weeks of laughter sessions.
How does laughter lower blood pressure?
How laughter lowers blood pressure involves a few factors.
Firstly, laughing is excellent stress relief. And since stress is often at least a partial cause of many people’s high blood pressure, this is significant.
When you get stressed, your body release stress hormones like cortisol. Cortisol directly acts on the walls (the lining) of the blood vessels, causing them to contract. And the narrower your blood vessels, the greater the pressure of the blood against the vessel walls. Cortisol also makes the heart beat faster, further raising blood pressure.
So how does laughing lower blood pressure? Well it helps to counteract this physical response to stress.
According to the “Clown Doctors” of Australia’s Humour Foundation,
Laughter reduces the production of stress hormones, not only during the time of laughter but also for some time after. Laughter also works the muscles, leading to an initial rise in blood pressure followed by a more sustained drop. Blood vessels dilate and an increased amount of oxygen enters the circulation due to deeper breathing. The ‘heartier’ the laugh, the better – laughing 15-20 minutes a day is good for heart health.
Even just watching funny videos has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol (a stress hormone), raise endorphin levels (‘feel good hormones’), and improve blood flow in the arteries.
Researchers emphasise that the most benefits come from real hearty belly laughs lasting for a minute or so – a polite chuckle or two isn’t quite enough. Struggling to find enough humour in your daily life though? No worries. Here are some tried-and-tested ways to have a good laugh. Why not get the most out of the beneficial relationship of laughing and blood pressure?!
How to laugh more to lower your blood pressure
To start off, Dr Peter Spitzer (aka Dr Fruit-Loop), Medical Director of the Humour Foundation recommends the following ways to laugh more:
• Look for opportunities to introduce humour
• Watch comedy DVDs and shows
• Go to comedy clubs…or form your own
• Listen to comedy and laugh whilst driving
• Spend less time with overly serious people
• Spend more time playing
• Connect with funny people
• Visit toy and magic shops
• When all else fails, don’t take yourself too seriously; just take the opportunity to laugh at yourself and enjoy
• Tell your doctor you’re laughing more these days.
However, what if you’re finding even these suggestions difficult to follow? Or what if you’re able to find your life gently humorous, but are just needing more of those deep belly laughs. If this is the case, then laughter yoga may be just the thing.
Laughter yoga, laughter therapy and laughter clubs
You’re joking, right? Laughter yoga? Actually it’s no joke. And actually, it turns out you don’t even need to find something funny in order to start laughing.
‘Laughter yoga’ or ‘laughter therapy’ was developed by an Indian doctor, Madan Kataria, and works on the principle that the body can’t differentiate between fake and real laughter.
So if you force yourself to laugh, at some point your body takes over and you start laughing for real. The advantage of this is that you don’t need to feel happy or amused to initiate and benefit from a good belly laugh.
Laughter yoga combines body-triggered laughter with deep breathing, and the social contact of being in a group, to get people laughing deeply for extended periods. As well as being healthy, laughter yoga groups or clubs are a lot of fun.
There are now over six thousand laughter clubs (mostly free) in over sixty countries, proving laughter yoga is not something to be taken lightly…
Click here for some links to find (or start) a laughter club near you (scroll down to the “Have a laugh” section): Laughing resources
Beyond laughing and blood pressure – there’s more you can do…
Laughing of course is not the only way to lower your blood pressure, although it’s a damn fine start. By the way, that last link to laughing resources, above, contains information on relaxation techniques too. Whether or not you tend to be stressed or anxious, relaxing more deeply is a powerful aspect of lowering blood pressure.
As well as relaxing, there are a lot of other activities you can do to lower your blood pressure. And there are also many many things you can eat and drink which have beneficial blood pressure-reducing effects.
To find out about all of these, have a look at our book – Lower Your Blood Pressure Naturally – The Complete 9 Step Guide
It’s a comprehensive and easy-to-follow guide to lowering blood pressure the natural way – i.e., without pharmaceutical medications. (Although if you already take these, natural methods of lowering blood pressure can help you lower your blood pressure further.)
Each step leads you through a different set of things you can do to lower your blood pressure. You can just take each step at your own pace – one a week or one a month or more. And gradually bring your blood pressure down and keep it down.
This doesn’t have to involve undue suffering either. It’s not about denial but about introducing good foods, drinks, and enjoyable activities into your life, which will improve your general health and well-being too. You can still drink alcohol and you can eat more dark chocolate.
Click on the picture for more information and/or to buy. You’ll also get a set of audio tracks for guided slow breathing included (slow breathing is actually the quickest way to lower blood pressure without medications)!
Laughing and blood pressure – references and more information
The Humour Foundation – Laughter Lowers Blood Pressure: https://www.humourfoundation.com.au/resources/seriously-funny-medicine/62-laughter-lowers-blood-pressure.html
Music and laughter and blood pressure – University of Maryland study:
Music and laughter and blood pressure – University of Osaka study:
Laughter and memory: https://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/health/laughter-can-improve-short-term-memory/
Health benefits of laughing – Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/laughing-may-help-ease-blood-pressure-boost-mood-and-enrich-health-in-other-ways/2011/10/18/gIQAq8Y5CM_story.html
Laughing and pain thresholds: https://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/early/2011/09/19/rspb.2011.1373
Effects of watching comedy videos versus depressing documentaries: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/151941.php