Laughter Therapy is Therapy

You know what they say…laughter is the best medicine.

When was the last time you had a real “belly laugh?” You know, the kind of laugh that makes breathing hard and your belly hurt? Don’t you love to hear the infectious giggles of a baby or the hysterical guffaws that ensue when teens gather together? Why is it so difficult for adults to find those giggles sometimes, especially when we know that laughter is good for our physical bodies, mental health, and soul?

Laughter can’t cure all that ails us, but research about what laughter can do is pretty amazing. Studies conducted by The Mayo Clinic say that laughter can be the best medicine by stimulating our organs by enhancing our oxygen intake and releasing endorphins in the brain that make us feel better emotionally. Laughter calms our stress responses and decreases our heart rate and blood pressure.

Laughter can improve the immune system by releasing positive peptides that alleviate stress. Psychology Today describes laughter as the most contagious of all human emotions. Although laughter can be triggered by embarrassment or discomfort, it has evolved to facilitate bonding in relationships.

Lost Your “Funny?”

Humor can be learned and developed; it may even be easier than you think. Here are some things to try:

  • Move toward laughter. When you hear someone laughing, move toward it. Typically, people want to share the things that make them laugh, so don’t be afraid to ask, “What’s so funny?”.
  • Laugh, and the world laughs with you. It’s ok to find the lighter side of life. Let down your defenses and inhibitions, and look at the humorous side of mistakes. Share those mistakes with others.
  • Spend time with fun people. Life is ridiculous! Some folks can find humor in the most mundane events, and their humor can be contagious. Even if you aren’t a natural comedian, you can still be part of the audience! Spend time with people who make you laugh.
  • Plan for the silly. Find a few simple ways to bring about a chuckle. Maybe it’s a meme or a picture. Perhaps it’s a tv show playing as background noise. Maybe it’s a podcast. Find a way to put yourself in the middle of the humor.
  • Start with a grin. Start with a smile. Allow the corners of your mouth to turn up a bit. Chances are good that your smile will be returned!
  • Try Laughing Yoga. Yoga and Laughter? YES! Intentional laughter produced through movement and breathing has the same effects on the body as spontaneous laughter.
  • Fake it. So, what if you really can’t “find the funny?” Believe it or not, it’s possible to laugh without experiencing a funny event—and simulated laughter can be just as beneficial as the real thing. It can even make exercise more fun and productive. A Georgia State University study found that incorporating bouts of simulated laughter into an exercise program helped improve older adults’ mental health and their aerobic endurance. Hearing others laugh, even for no apparent reason, can trigger genuine laughter.

Laughter Brings Emotional Connection

Remember when someone told a good joke that made howl with laughter? You felt a connection with them because there was a genuinely joyful connection with another person. Interestingly, a sense of humor is the top trait people look for in their prospective partners. As humans, we are social creatures and find community in sharing. Laughing creates connections and builds relationships. 

According to How Stuff Works, “the act of laughing stimulates hormones called catecholamines, which in turn release the happy juice – endorphins. With endorphins surging through our bloodstream, we’re more apt to feel happy and relaxed. Therefore, each laugh relieves stress, reduces anxiety, and increases our personal energy stores. These psychological and physiological results are wonderful tools for coping with illness, a hospital stay, or even a cranky coworker.”

A good laugh heals a lot of hurts!

Life can be stressful, unpredictable, and difficult to navigate. Tuning into what gives you joy and puts a smile on your face is how you continue to move forward and stay resilient. Laughter is a joy that improves our health, relationships, and emotional well-being.