Laughter Therapy: Is Laughter the Best Medicine?

laughter therapy

Laughter is the best medicine. The benefits of laughter therapy extend beyond coping with stress to strengthening the immune system and improving your overall stress health.

What is good for your health and more contagious than a sneeze or a cold? That’s right – laughter. Having your funny bone tickled promotes relaxation and is one of many ways to manage stress.

But the benefits of laughter extend beyond dealing with stress to improving muscle tension, strengthening the immune system, and reducing high blood pressure.

Laughter reduces the incidence of stress related illness and promotes your health and well-being.

Is laughter the best medicine? Some health benefits of laughter therapy

Do you remember the movie Patch Adams, in which Robin Williams discovers the benefits of humor as a form of therapy and a means to "lighten the load".

The proverbs state that "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine."

Well…finally scientific evidence is confirming what we have felt for a long time - that humor and laughing can be good for us.

Humor and laughter therapy lighten the burden and help you to connect with others.

Watch this video for a minute and let yourself laugh. Experience the body and mind shift that laughter can promote.

Physical benefits of laughter

While you were allowing your funny bone to be tickled, your body released endorphins, the natural feel good chemicals and proven pain reliever.

At the same time, you probably experienced reduced cortisol levels which is a stress hormone linked with stress health problems.

At the same time, studies show that laughter is correlated with a strengthened the immune system. See this article on stress and the immune system.

Another benefit of laughter therapy is that a good belly laugh can be like an internal jog.

Your muscles contract and relax, the depth and rate of respiration increases, blood pressure increases as does your central nervous system.

After you have had a good belly laugh your body has a similar level of deep relaxation similar to relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation.

Thus the uplifting mood you experience when you laugh is a great way to combat the physical and emotional effects of stress.

Psychological benefits of laughter: Developing a positive mental attitude

At the psychological level, it is hard to experience both negative emotions such as stress and anxiety and uplifting emotions at the same time - so if you laugh you can lessen the impact of negative emotions.

According to the current definition of stress, it is not simply the external event that causes stress, but also how you perceive it.

This means that the way we view a situation influences the stress that we feel.

Negative thoughts can actually lead to an activation of the stress response which can suppress the immune system. On the other hand positive emotions can strengthen the immune system.

This makes positive thinking and cognitive therapy important tools for stress relief.

Did You Know that we Laugh Less as we Get Older.

Adolescents aged 14 years of age laugh about once every 4 minutes.

American adults laugh about 15 times a day.

Laughter and laughter therapy allows you to look at a situation with a different perspective - and this changed perspective can influence the amount of stress that you might feel.

By making light of the situation - you are likely to see the event as less threatening - and as a result feel less stress.

In his book 'Anatomy of an Illness', Norman Cousins illustrated that a positive mindset and laughter therapy provide a boost to the immune system - which can conquer some life threatening illnesses.

So with each laugh, you're giving yourself some much needed stress relief, increasing your stores of personal energy and developing your stress coping skills.

How to bring more humor and laughter into Your life

What may be funny to one person may put another to sleep. Find out what tickles your funny bone, so that you can reap the benefits of natural stress relief.

Movies, Books and TV. The video and book stores are stocked with shelves of mood-inducing videos and books. Find out those movies and books that set you off on a ripple of laughter and then you can choose when to bring some laughter into your life whenever you need it.

Friends and Others. There are some truly funny people in the world. Every time I watch the likes of Billy Connolly I am in stitches on the floor – but I find that when I can share the jokes with friends I get much more out of comedy clubs and comedians.

Why not try bringing humor into conversations – try starting a conversation with "What’s the funniest thing that has happened to you this week?"

Laugh at Yourself. Everyone makes mistakes. Rather than beating yourself up about the mistake that you made, why not learn from the mistake and move on. Grab a friend and share a joke about the stuff up.

I remember when I was learning Korean and everyday for two weeks I asked the bus driver for "A milk (instead of ticket) to the Seoul". Even now, 10 years later I have a good laugh about this and the many other errors I made.

Smile More Often. Just as there are studies that show if you smile you rate yourself as happier. This positive effect of smiling (even if you don’t mean it) on wellbeing is also contagious and can result in laughter and viewing yourself less seriously.

See the humor in situations. Try to see the humor in things. For every situation there is another way to see it, or a different perspective to take. The other night I was in a Thai restaurant and they did not have any rice. While initially frustrating I was able to see the funny side of this (a Thai restaurant without rice huh?) which actually reduced my stress.

Remind Yourself of Funny Times. Make a list of those things that you find funny. It may be a joke, a funny moment or a image you have in your head. I made a list of funny times and have it close to me when I want to have a good laugh.

Laugh and the world laughs with you. Weep and you weep alone.     Ella Wheeler Wilcox, 1883

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