Laughter Really Is the Best Medicine

A new study shows it’s good for your heart

I knew there was a reason I don’t like scary movies. Those scenarios in which

an innocent young lass makes her way into a blackened

basement, armed only with a cell phone that for sure is about to go dead—sorry, Aaron Mettey, but they’re not for me. Nor do I care for alien invasion flicks (with all due apologies to Christine Speer). I also can’t stand war movies—or, for that matter, anything that doesn’t have a happy ending. Life’s hard enough. I don’t need stress when I’m trying to relax.

Now it turns out that stress isn’t only in my head. University of Maryland researchers have been tracking a group of 300 men and women for the past decade in hopes of learning more about heart disease. One recent experiment, reported on, involved showing the subjects two movies—the lighthearted comedy There’s Something About Mary, the other the scary, stressful opening minutes of Saving Private Ryan. When they watched the latter, their blood flow was constricted by narrowed blood vessels. When they laughed at the comedy, blood vessels expanded, increasing blood flow. “The magnitude of change we saw in the endothelium after laughing was consistent and similar to the benefit we might see with aerobic exercise or statin use,” lead investigator Michael Miller says. And he added that laughing regularly might be as important as eating the right foods and working out. Finally, something good for me that I actually enjoy!