If you’ve heard the phrase once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: Laughter is the best medicine.

But is there any science to back that up, or is it just this thing we say now and again to make ourselves feel better?

The answer may surprise you. As it turns out, laughter has a number of impacts, both short and long term.

In the short term, when you laugh, you’re increasing the amount of oxygen your body is getting, which helps to stimulate your muscles, heart and lungs. In addition to that, it increases the output of endorphins in your brain, commonly referred to as the “feel good hormone.”

It also helps to soothe tension by stimulating circulation while simultaneously aiding with muscle relaxation. That removes some of the physical symptoms related to stress. Laughter triggers and eases your stress response, causing your heart rate to initially increase, and then decrease by a greater factor. That has the impact of lowering your blood pressure.

In the longer term, the more you laugh, the more you’ll find that your mood improves and your personal life satisfaction increases. Laughter also helps to reduce pain levels, so if you’re a chronic pain sufferer, having a sense of humor about it can help more than you might believe. In addition to that, laughter actually increases the amount of neuropeptides in your body, which help fight stress and ward off illness.

All that to say, if you don’t already have a well-developed sense of humor, spending some time developing one will pay you handsome dividends, both now and later. Sadly, laughter isn’t a magic bullet or a cure-all that will fix every problem you’ve got, but it helps a lot more than most people realize.