Why Laughter is the Best Medicine for Executive Control

Laughter boosts executive control by reducing stress and increasing positivity, resulting in enhanced cognitive function and decision-making skills.
Why Laughter is the Best Medicine for Executive Control


Executive control is an umbrella term that encompasses a range of cognitive processes - from planning and decision making to working memory and impulse control - that are essential for successful goal-directed behavior. These functions enable us to manage our thoughts, emotions, and actions, and guide us in navigating the complexities of daily life. As such, executive control plays a critical role in our well-being and achievement.

While the importance of executive control is well-known, what is not as well-known is how we can enhance and maintain our executive functions. Fortunately, one of the simplest and most effective ways to do so is through laughter.

Laughter has been touted as the best medicine for a reason - it has numerous benefits, both physical and mental. From reducing stress to boosting mood, laughter has a powerful impact on our well-being. However, what is less understood is how laughter can enhance executive control. In this article, we will explore the science behind laughter and its positive effect on our cognitive abilities.

Laughter reduces stress

Stress is a common experience for many people in modern-day society. As a response to stressors, the body produces hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which prepare the body to handle the perceived threat. However, chronic stress can have adverse effects on various body systems, including the immune, digestive, and cardiovascular systems.

Interestingly, laughter has been shown to reduce the physiological effects of stress. When we laugh, the body releases endorphins, which are natural painkillers that also promote positive emotions. Additionally, laughter activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to counteract the effects of the stress response.

Studies have shown that laughter can significantly reduce stress levels. In one study, participants who watched a funny video had lower levels of cortisol compared to those who watched a neutral video. In another study, nurses who attended laughter therapy sessions reported lower stress levels and improved mood.

Overall, it is clear that incorporating laughter into our daily lives can help to mitigate the effects of chronic stress on our bodies and minds. Whether it’s watching a funny movie or hanging out with friends who make us laugh, taking time to laugh may be the best medicine for executive control.

Laughter Increases Positivity

The power of positive emotions cannot be overstated in their impact on cognitive function. Researchers have found a clear link between positive emotions and a wide range of cognitive abilities, including attention, memory, and decision-making [1].

Laughter can be a particularly effective way of promoting positivity. When we laugh, we release endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals, which can create a sense of well-being and happiness. Laughter can also stimulate the release of oxytocin, a hormone that promotes social bonding [2].

In addition to the biochemical benefits, laughing can shift our perspective and promote a more positive outlook on life. When we are in a negative frame of mind, our thoughts tend to be narrow and focused on problems. Laughter can help us break out of this cycle and expand our thinking, making it easier to see solutions and possibilities [3].

Studies have shown that laughter can have a significant impact on our mood and outlook on life. One study found that hospital patients who watched comedies had reduced anxiety and a more positive outlook compared to patients who did not watch comedies [4]. Other research has found that laughter can lead to greater resilience in the face of stress, which can further enhance our overall sense of well-being [5].

In summary, laughter is an excellent way to promote positivity and improve cognitive function. By releasing feel-good chemicals, stimulating social bonding, and broadening our perspective, laughter can help us feel happier, more connected, and more capable of handling life’s challenges.

“Laughter is sunshine in the house.” – William Thackeray

[1] Fredrickson, B. L., & Branigan, C. (2005). Positive emotions broaden the scope of attention and thought-action repertoires. Cognition and Emotion, 19(3), 313-332.

[2] Dunbar, R., Baron, R., Frangou, A., Pearce, E., van Leeuwen, E. J., Stow, J., & Partridge, G. (2011). Social laughter is correlated with an elevated pain threshold. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 279(1731), 1161-1167.

[3] Keltner, D., & Bonanno, G. A. (1997). A study of laughter and dissociation: distinct correlates of laughter and smiling during bereavement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73(4), 687-702.

[4] Bennett, M. P., Zeller, J. M., Rosenberg, L., & McCann, J. (2003). The effect of mirthful laughter on stress and natural killer cell activity. Alternative therapies in health and medicine, 9(2), 38.

[5] Martin, R., & Kuiper, N. (1999). Daily occurrence of laughter: Relationships with age, gender and Type A personality. Humor-International Journal of Humor Research, 12(4), 355-384.

Laughter enhances cognitive function

Laughter doesn’t just promote positive feelings, it also has a significant impact on cognitive function especially executive control. Executive control involves the ability to regulate thoughts, emotions, and impulses in a way that aligns with a person’s goals. It plays an essential role in decision-making, problem-solving, planning, strategizing, and self-control. Here are some ways laughter enhances cognitive function:

The impact of stress and negativity on decision making

Negative emotions such as stress, anxiety, and fear can have a detrimental effect on decision-making skills. Stress impacts cognitive processes, such as working memory, attention, and executive function, making it difficult to think logically, creatively, and flexibly. Stressful situations trigger the release of cortisol, which impairs the prefrontal cortex, a brain region associated with executive control. Laughter, on the other hand, counteracts the impact of stress by reducing cortisol levels and promoting positive emotions.

The role of positive emotions in enhancing cognitive function

Positive emotions, such as joy, happiness, and amusement, boost cognitive function by enhancing memory, attention, creativity, and problem-solving skills. Positive emotions broaden our scope of attention and increase the flexibility of thoughts and actions. Furthermore, they foster resilience and build psychological resources that help individuals cope with stress and adversity. Laughter is one of the most potent positive emotions that can promote cognitive function.

Evidence of improved working memory and decision-making skills after laughter

Studies have shown that laughter can improve working memory and cognitive flexibility, the ability to switch between multiple tasks or concepts. In a study conducted by Bains et al. (2015) on older adults, those who participated in a laughter yoga program showed significant improvement in working memory, cognitive flexibility, and mental speed. Another study by Toplak et al. (2018) found that watching a comedy show improved decision-making skills in a simulated investment task.

In conclusion, laughter is a powerful tool that can enhance cognitive function, especially executive control. By reducing stress, increasing positivity, and promoting positive emotions, laughter can improve memory, attention, creativity, and decision-making skills. Incorporating more laughter into daily life could be an effective strategy for boosting cognitive function and overall mental health. So go ahead and watch a funny video, read a joke, or call a friend who always makes you laugh – it’s good for your brain and wellbeing!

“Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face” - Victor Hugo.


In conclusion, laughter can be considered a natural remedy for our executive control system. It can reduce stress levels, increase positivity, and enhance cognitive function. By reducing stress levels, laughter helps us to improve our decision-making abilities and work more efficiently. Furthermore, laughter promotes positive emotions, improving our mood, and outlook, which can lead to a rise in productivity.

Moreover, research shows that laughter enhances cognitive function. It can help us to make better decisions, improve working memory, and boost our creativity. Laughter also makes us more resilient, helping us to cope with challenges better.

Therefore, it is crucial to incorporate laughter into our daily lives, whether it be through watching a comedy, spending time with friends who make us happy, or even laughing at oneself. Laughing is a simple yet powerful way to take charge of our executive control system’s health and well-being.

In this fast-paced world where stress is a constant companion, self-care through positive emotions such as laughter is vital. So, let’s take responsibility for our mental and emotional health by laughing more, spreading joy, and enhancing our cognitive function. As they say, laughter is contagious, so let’s spread it around!