Yes, it’s a real thing! Here’s everything you need to know about laughter therapy and how it can help you.
Is laughter the best medicine? A growing body of research suggests that laughter therapy very well may be!
Mark Twain once said, “Before the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.”
We were all born with the ability to laugh. Laughter has a strong physiological effect on our bodies and is a natural medicine that can help ease our pain at any age.
Laughter therapy, or humor therapy, is the use of humor to prevent overall health and wellness. Studies show that laughter therapy has powerful therapeutic power. It can improve mental health, boost immunity, reduce chronic pain, and even increase the effectiveness of cancer treatments.
Many hospitals now offer laughter therapy programs as a complementary treatment to illness. Yoga studios around the country offer laughter yoga, and more and more therapists are prescribing laughter in conjunction with other treatments.
Here is everything you need to know about laughter therapy and how you can use humor to boost your physical and mental health.
Laughter Therapy: A Brief History
As early as the 13th century, physicians used humor in medicine to alleviate pain. Written by and for the social elite, the humor 13th century physicians used usually involved a series of sagas peppered with black humor to distract patients from physical pain.
By the 20th century, researchers started to study the science behind laughter’s healing benefits. After years of chronic pain from a serious illness, Norman Cousins was one of the first to record his personal experience using humor to combat chronic pain and disease.
A political journalist, world peace advocate and editor at the New York Evening Post, Cousins found that watching comedic movies helped him decrease his pain and recover from his life-threatening illness.
“I made the joyous discovery that 10 minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect,” Cousins wrote.
In his 1979 book, Anatomy of an Illness, Cousins detailed his experience. The book is now a classic, and laid the groundwork for future research on laughter therapy and the power it has to heal.
How laughter therapy can help
Studies show that laughter therapy can help improve both mental and physical health:
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Improves sleep
- Helps people cope with depression
- Strengthens social bonds and relationships
- Boosts immune response
- Increases effectiveness of cancer treatments
- Triggers endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers
- Improves effectiveness of rehabilitation treatments
How laughter therapy works
- Increases our oxygen intake,
- Relaxes muscles throughout the body, and
- Stimulates our hearts and lungs.
Research shows that it also produces melatonin, which helps us sleep. Coupled with the powerful effects the endorphins our bodies release during laughing have on our bodies, studies show laughter can quite literally heal.
For people suffering from a terminal illness, laughter therapy brings a sense of normalcy that is otherwise hard to find when you are in crisis mode.
Types of laughter therapy
Today, there are many types of laughter therapies:
- Clinical: Used on an individual basis, therapists find a patient’s laughter triggers and uses them as a tool to help them deal with emotional stress.
- Laughter Yoga: Laughter yoga combines breathing and stretching with laughter, usually in a group setting.
- Integrative Therapies: Cancer centers and hospitals pair laughter therapy with traditional Western medicine to give their patients a holistic approach to treatment.
How to practice laughter therapy on your own
If you or a loved one is currently undergoing treatments or in a hospital or long-term care setting, be sure to ask the staff if they offer a laughter therapy program.
Otherwise, consider engaging a clinician who specializes in laughter therapy or find a yoga studio that offers laughter yoga in your town.
If you want to take Norman Cousins approach and try to simply laugh more on your own, here are a few things you can incorporate into your day that will get you laughing in no time!
7 Ways to Practice Laughter Therapy On Your Own
Eat breakfast for dinner. Ditch your engagement tonight and, instead, curl up on the sofa with cozy socks and a funny book. Wear a shirt that says something funny on it. Play with a child.
Spend time with funny people
Some people are just naturally funny! If you have a friend that makes you laugh, spend more time with them.
Tap into entertainment
It’s never been easier to find funny entertainment on demand. Search for your favorite comedian or sitcom on Netflix, take time to read the comics, or go see a silly movie on a date.
Look for humor
The next time you find yourself frustrated, think like Jerry Seinfeld. Remember this clip about making reservations? Try to think this way rather than getting too upset!
Get a pet
Dog owners laugh more frequently!
Laugh at yourself
When something goes wrong, try to laugh at yourself and find the humor in the situation rather than getting upset at yourself.
Find daily humor
Come on get happy!
Laughter. Air. Water. Get back to basics by laughing more and ensuring you are getting all of the essential things your body needs to function well, like quality sleep, fresh air and plenty of water.
Healthy Human is not just a brand. It’s a lifestyle and we are here to help! Join us in Living Life Healthy:
- Visit our blog for daily happiness, health and wellness hacks that can improve your well-being!
- Curl up with a Healthy Human BPA-free, stainless steel bottle, a lavender latte and your favorite stand up comedian on Netflix tonight. What could be better than that?
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Have you tried laughter therapy? What has your experience been? Let us know in the comments below!