Laughter and smiling can help ease daily stress, study says

BASEL, Switzerland — There’s an old saying, sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying. When it comes to the stressors that build up every day, laughter may be just what the doctor ordered. Researchers from the Division of Clinical Psychology and Epidemiology at the University of Basel say laughing can serve as a source of relief when it comes to dealing with stress.

Their study finds even cracking a smile can help ease the negative effects of stress. Study authors say estimate people laugh about 18 times a day. Typically, it’s during interactions with others or experiences that bring them pleasure.

Using a mobile phone app, participants answered questions eight times a day for a 14-day stretch. This study included 41 psychology students (33 women) with an average age just under 22. The randomly generated questions gauged each participant’s intensity, frequency, and reason for laughing. The app also looked at stressful events or stress symptoms since the last time a question popped up.

Using the results, lead authors Dr. Thea Zandler-Schellenburg and Dr. Isabella Collins examine the connection between laughter, stress, and psychological and physical symptoms they cause. Their findings revealed that when participants frequently laughed, stressful events were more related to minor symptoms of personal stress.

Does how hard you laugh make a difference?

The second set of results however, showed that stressful events and the intensity of laughter — be it strong, medium, or weak — don’t seem to have a connection to stress symptoms.

“This could be because people are better at estimating the frequency of their laughter, rather than its intensity, over the last few hours,” researchers explain in a university release.

In conclusion, laughing may help a person better handle the stress that occurs in daily life. There isn’t a direct correlation to how hard someone laughs and how stress affects them in that sense.

The study is published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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