Laughter Therapy: The Healing Power of Humor
Laughter may not always be the best medicine, but scientific research suggests that it definitely has some therapeutic benefits. Various studies throughout the years have linked laughter with everything from improved immune function to lower blood sugar levels among people with type II diabetes. A hearty chuckle may also trigger a release of endorphins, the neurotransmitter responsible for upbeat moods and pain relief. Plus, all that air you breathe in while laughing supplies your vital organs with much needed oxygen.
The potential of humor to heal is so strong that there’s an entire field dedicated to it: laughter (or humor) therapy. In “Toward Optimal Health: The Experts Discuss Therapeutic Humor,” writer Jodi R. Godfrey, MS, RD explores the role of laughter in physical and emotional well-being. She includes a quote from David Sobel, MD, Medical Director of Patient Education and Health Promotion for the Permanente Medical Group, that sheds some insight into that role: “[The] reality is that healthy people tend to be pleasure-seekers with a sense of humor rather than rigid lifestyle adherents.” His argument is that laughter can do much more for a person’s health than a “strict weight loss diet” or “a punishing exercise program,” and that’s what laughter therapy is all about.
A Laugh a Day Could Help Keep the Doctor Away
There are entire organizations and movements based on laughter therapy. For example, the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor is an international non-profit for professionals who use humor and laughter for healing purposes. Laughter Yoga International, which started as a small laughter club in Mumbai, India, is now a worldwide movement that includes Laughter Clubs, the Laughter Yoga technique, team-building workshops based on that technique, and an International Laughter Yoga University on the horizon.
Even major health organizations tout the healing powers of humor to their patients. Both the Cancer Treatment Centers of America and the American Cancer Society list humor or laughter therapy under the treatment pages on their website. Of course, even the funniest movie can’t replace actual medicine or undo years of unhealthy habits, but laughing does provide a mood boost, which is essential for overall wellness. There are no risks or possible complications when used as a complementary therapy — unless, as the American Cancer Society points out, you’ve had surgery or you’re using humor to avoid dealing with serious issues.
But whether you’re ill, feeling blue, or simply interested in increasing your quality of life, adding more laughter into your life is almost always a good idea. Maybe it’s a favorite movie or TV show, or a stand-up comedian, or just a great book that makes you smile. (Smiling helps, too!) To give you some quick humor inspiration, start with the video below (“Shit Girls Say,” an oldie at this point, but still a goodie) and let the healing begin.
Bennet, MP, et al. “The effect of mirthful laughter on stress and natural killer cell activity”
Hayashi, Keiko, et al. “Laughter Lowered the Increase in Postprandial Blood Glucose”
Dunbar, R. I. M., et al. “Social laughter is correlated with an elevated pain threshold”
Godrey, Jodi R. “Toward Optimal Health: The Experts Discuss Therapeutic Humor”