Laughter has been scientifically proven to boost our wellbeing, here’s how it works

Kathryn Wheeler
By Kathryn Wheeler,
updated on Jun 30, 2023

Woman laughing

From freshening up our perspective to helping us feel in control, here are five surprising ways laughter supports our wellbeing

They say that laughter is the best medicine, but it turns out there might be some solid evidence behind that old saying.

In research from the University of Warwick, researchers Professor Stephanie Schnurr and Yanyan Li have uncovered the ways that laughter and humour can be used in our daily lives, in order to support better levels of wellbeing.

What they saw was that research that looked specifically at laughter and humour in the workplace and in health-related scenarios showed that they are able to alleviate worry, diminish feelings of isolation, and also offer people a sense of control over their mental and emotional state.

“Laughter is an important channel to express feelings, show appreciation and create a positive atmosphere,” says Professor Stephanie Schnurr. “Similarly, by embracing humour, individuals can find solace and resilience in the face of adversity.”

So, how else can laughter support us? Supported by the University of Warwick research, here are five ways laughter and humour are good for our wellbeing…

1. It can help us find the positive side

Have you ever found yourself in a difficult situation, where the solutions seem impossible, or the bad luck just keeps on piling up? In these scenarios, it can be very easy to get frustrated, and want to throw in the rag, but finding the humour in them can help us take a step back and see the problem from a different perspective. It might be a disagreement at work which, when you really think about it, seems quite trivial. Or a series of unfortunate events that have happened with comical timing. Having a laugh about it doesn’t undo whatever it was that was causing you distress, but it can help us to put things in perspective, and find another angle to come at it from.

2. We are able to take back control

In times when we feel we’re losing control of a situation, whether that be at work or in a health-related scenario, humour and laughter can help us to take some of that back. The researchers point towards the example of making fun of your ‘outsider’ status at work, in order to regain some control of the situation and find your confidence again.

3. Stress relief

When stress is piled high and you're feeling overwhelmed, having a good laugh can feel like a release valve, helping you to let go of all the things that have been pent up inside. Rather than remaining in the same mental space, you’re able to detach from whatever it is that has been worrying you, taking the power away from it and putting you into a more steady and positive mental state.

4. We can gain a new perspective

“Humour creates a new version of reality that is easier to live in, less scary, and less likely to cause fear,” explains Professor Stephanie Schnurr. “Used by women in male-dominated professions to make fun of their outsider status, humour enables them to criticise and challenge the status quo without putting others off or offending them. Humour can also help people criticise their boss and communicate alternative views without running the risk of being shot down for disagreeing with the boss.”

Similarly, in a medical context, humour can help professionals communicate with patients who may find the conversation stressful or anxiety-inducing. It can put them at ease, and help them make a human connection with the care-giver.

5. It brings us together

“Sharing a laugh is an excellent way to display affiliation and togetherness,” says Yanyan Li, PhD student at the University of Warwick. “Especially in a workplace context where often expectations and pressures are high, humour and laughter are useful tools to improve wellbeing and to make our own – and our colleagues’ lives – a little more enjoyable.”

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