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Why laughter really is the best medicine

Nov 19, 2018
By Michelle Konstantinovsky
Man and daughter laughing

Updated November 19, 2018.

Cat videos. A tickle attack. Tina Fey doing basically anything.

Chances are at least one of these things has reduced you to a fit of giggles or you can think of something else that’s left your eyes watery and your abs aching. Think about how that felt — did all your muscles turn to jelly and your entire body relax? Did you momentarily forget your annoying day at the office?

However you’d describe the experience, it probably felt great. And there are plenty of reasons why: a good laugh can do everything from soothing tension by taming stress and stimulating circulation to boosting endorphins, the feel-good brain chemicals responsible for that post-hilarity high. One British study even found that participants had a higher tolerance for pain after watching funny clips from South Park, The Simpsons, and Friends.

Desmond Watt

Desmond Watt

Cracking up is also a great way to bond — studies show it’s 30 times more likely to happen in a social context than when alone. “Sharing a joke or a laugh helps us connect on a personal, human level,” says Desmond Watt, a One Medical Chicago physician assistant. “It builds and strengthens relationships. These strong bonds have been shown to be possibly the most important piece in long and healthy lives. There’s always time for a good joke.”

But laughter isn’t just a temporary fix — research shows it has long-term benefits too. Some studies indicate that a sense of humor is associated with enhanced immune function and one study found that depressed patients who took part in a Laughter Yoga group (which is exactly what it sounds like) experienced a significant decrease in depression and a significant increase in life satisfaction, suggesting the laughing practice was at least as effective as group exercise for boosting mental health.

It may not come as a surprise then that laughter plays a pretty important role in health care too. In fact, it’s a sneaky way many providers get nervous patients to relax and the tactic is often hugely successful. “We may not tell actual jokes during blood draws, but we make amusing comments,” says Washington DC phlebotomist Mackenzie Snead. “Like we’ll say patients who aren’t fasting ‘must be slowing” or we refer to our phleb chair as an ‘iron throne’ because it’s just as sharp.”

Woman holding flu vaccination sign

Gillian Costa

Snead’s colleague Gillian Costa took things one step further last fall. “When I dressed up as a flu shot for Halloween and did a patient’s lab work while wearing it…that seemed to make them relax!” she laughs. “But that’s a once a year type of deal.”

We asked some other One Medical providers to share their favorite go-to jokes below — hopefully at least one will brighten your day and boost your mood:

Natasha Bhuyan, a Phoenix doctor:

A man walks into a doctor’s office. He has a cucumber up his nose, a carrot in his left ear and a banana in his right ear.
“What’s the matter with me?” he asks the doctor.
The doctor replies, “You’re not eating properly.”

Alice Eastman, a virtual team registered nurse

Q: What’s Forrest Gump’s Facebook password?
A: 1forrest1.

Marie President, a Redwood City MD:

Patient: Doctor, I have a serious memory problem. I can’t remember anything!
Doctor: So, since when did you have this problem?
Patient: What problem?

Cathy Weir, a San Francisco phlebotomist:

Q: Why did the scarecrow win a Nobel prize?
A: Because he’s out standing in his field. 

Rachana Jani

Rachana Kotecha

Rachana Kotecha, a New York City doctor:

Q: You know why you never see elephants hiding up in trees?
A: Because they’re really good at it.

Q: Does an apple a day keep the doctor away?
A: Yes, but only if you aim it well enough. 


Q: How do you say “suppository” in Italian?
A: “Innuendo.”

Stephanie Long, a San Francisco MD:

Patient: “Doctor, it hurts when I do this [demonstrates]. Is there something wrong with me? What should I do?”
Doctor: “Don’t do that.”

Penelope Hsu, a New York City doctor:

A toddler was giving her daddy a tea party. She brought him a little cup of ‘tea’ which was just water, of course. After several cups of tea, her mom came home. Dad made her wait in the living room to watch his little princess bring him a cup of tea because it was ‘just the cutest thing!’ Mom waited, and sure enough, the little girl came down the hall with a cup of tea for daddy. Mom watched him drink it up and then said, ‘you know the only place she can reach water is the toilet!’ 

However you choose to get your laughs, make it a great April Fool’s Day and strive to get a daily dose of fun to enhance your overall health — doctor’s orders.

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Michelle Konstantinovsky

Michelle Konstantinovsky is an experienced writer, regularly producing content on a variety of wellness-oriented topics ranging from breaking health news to fitness and nutrition. Michelle has a master’s degree from UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and has written extensively on health and body image for outlets like O: The Oprah Magazine, Slate, SPIN.com, xoJane.com, and The Huffington Post. To read more of her work, visit www.michellekmedia.com.

The One Medical blog is published by One Medical, a national, modern primary care practice pairing 24/7 virtual care services with inviting and convenient in-person care at over 100 locations across the U.S. One Medical is on a mission to transform health care for all through a human-centered, technology-powered approach to caring for people at every stage of life.

Any general advice posted on our blog, website, or app is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace or substitute for any medical or other advice. 1Life Healthcare, Inc. and the One Medical entities make no representations or warranties and expressly disclaim any and all liability concerning any treatment, action by, or effect on any person following the general information offered or provided within or through the blog, website, or app. If you have specific concerns or a situation arises in which you require medical advice, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified medical services provider.