Professional comedians have long relied on the release that accompanies laughter when they set up tension in a joke, only to have that tension relieved by the punch line. Almost everyone can relate to the soul-cleansing catharsis of a good belly laugh. Laughter relaxes us, makes us feel happy, and erases bad and negative thoughts from our minds. The positive healthful effects of laughter have now been affirmed by scientific research.
Laughter is Good for You
By repeatedly forcing air out of our lungs, laughter is a form of physical exertion. All physical activity releases endorphins into our systems, and those neurotransmitters make us feel good. Scientific research has confirmed that laughter will accomplish this endorphin release. Laughter stretches our muscles and raises our blood pressure and pulse rate. We take in extra oxygen to recover from a good laugh, and that oxygen contributes to an overall sense of well-being. When we are with a group of people who all join together in laughing at something, the effects are even greater. Thus the social aspects of laughter are thought to enhance the physical and psychological benefits that we derive from it.
It is unlikely that laughter will fully replace traditional therapies for depression and other psychological disorders, but as counselors look for alternative methods to help their patients who suffer from those disorders, laughter can be a valuable adjunct tool. Counselors can encourage patients to look for things that make them laugh and to incorporate those things into their daily routines.
Laughter and Memory Issues
Laughter also has potential to help older individuals who are experiencing memory problems. At least one study has suggested that elderly persons have improved memory recall after they watch a 20-minute laugh-inducing video. Those individuals also had noticeable lower levels of stress hormones in their systems. Other studies have examined potential links between laughter and reduced incidents of heart disease, and whether laughter is an effective means to alleviate or control pain.
The benefits of laughter may well be the result of an improved quality of life. Individuals who exhibit a higher propensity to laugh will generally have stronger social networks and support structures around them. Laughter may well be an effect and not a cause of an improved quality of life. Even with this question, however, no therapist or counselor would recommend that a person reduce the amount of laughter in his life. When an individual is experiencing pain or discomfort, for example, any distraction can reduce his perception of that pain. In this context, laughter is only one of several potential distractions that might work. As long as connections are seen between laughter and improved mental and physical health, laughter will remain as a recommendation in every therapist’s toolbox.
If you have a chance to stop and laugh at something during your day, you should grab at that chance while you can. You might be surprised at how much better a good laugh will make you feel.
For more suggestions on how to incorporate laughter into your life, please call Sustain Recovery Services at (949) 407-9052. We will be happy to enjoy a good laugh with you.