Humor is good for you — physically and mentally!

By Phyllis Picklesimer
Media/Communications Specialist, University of Illinois College of ACES News and Public Affairs

URBANA, Ill. — It’s important for your physical and mental well-being to incorporate humor and laughter into your everyday life, said Cheri Burcham, a University of Illinois Extension family life educator.

Adults really need to hear this message because they laugh an average of 15 times a day compared to a 4-year-old who laughs once every four minutes,” she said.

Why is humor and laughter so important? The many physical benefits of humor include the following:

• Stimulating your cardiovascular system;

• Dilating blood vessels, which increases oxygen to the lungs;

• Reducing blood pressure and heart rate;

• Improving t-cells and natural killer cells in the immune system; and

• Producing beta endorphins to induce euphoria.

The psychological benefits of humor include the following:

• Relieving anxiety, distress, anger and depression;

• Creating feelings of well-being, empowerment and control; and

• Assisting in creation and maintenance of a positive attitude, hope, energy and self-esteem.

Humor also helps relieve hostility and anger and aids in putting situations into perspective, Burcham said.

Sometimes we exaggerate situations and make things seem worse than they really are,” she added. “Humor lets us detach ourselves, take a fresh look at a problem, and be more realistic about it.”

Do you have a sense of humor? What kinds of things do you find funny?

There is no right or wrong answer as to what is funny — it is a personal reaction,” she said. “Whatever tickles your funny bone, make sure that you actively seek it out by watching funny shows; reading comics, jokes or greeting cards; or listening to comedians.”

Burcham suggests keeping a humor journal where you write down things that have made you laugh: bumper stickers, headlines, amusing remarks or errors, and clever puns.

Be able to laugh at yourself,” she said. “Until you can laugh at your own mistakes and shortcomings, your self-esteem won’t let you have much of a sense of humor. Try to spend time with people who make you feel good about yourself and are pleasant to be with — those people who make you laugh.”

According to Burcham, laughter is not only good for you, it is cheap, effective and has pleasant side effects. It is also fat-free, salt-free, non-taxable, environmentally safe, renewable and does not require batteries or assembly.

For more about this topic or other family life-related topics, contact Cheri Burcham at University of Illinois Extension at (217) 543-3755 or at

From the Oct. 31-Nov. 6, 2012, issue

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