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Is Laughter the Best Medicine?

Is laughter the best medicine?

Is Laughter the Best Medicine?

Laughter makes the world a better place. But did you know… laughter might offer more benefits than you realize?! In fact, regular laughter is associated with a long list of health benefits – physical, mental, emotional and social. So, is laughter the best medicine, after all!

What is Laughter and Humor?

We all know what laughter is. We do it naturally, even as babies. But why do we laugh? Sometimes it’s for joy, happiness, relief, and other times it’s due to embarrassment, surprise, or confusion. Closely related, but not exactly the same, is humor. Anyone can laugh (or make the auditory sound), but not everyone understands humor. Humor is the ability to perceive what is funny and it can be verbal, visual, or physical.

A well-rounded sense of humor requires the combined function of both hemispheres of the brain. The left hemisphere understands the actual words and meaning. It tends to be very literal and likes wordplay. The right frontal lobe of the brain notices subtleties, nuances, assumptions and context, in order to “get” the joke.

From a health perspective, humor and laughter is the best medicine for many illnesses (or, at least one of them). Engaging in frequent moments of laughter and appreciating humor can have significant effects on someone’s heart, brain, pain, immune system, and more. In fact, it can actually promote the reversal of autoimmunity!

 

Health Benefits of Laughter

While laughter is an enjoyable experience all on it’s own, there’s so much more than meets the eye. The benefits of laughter span from physical health to emotional well-being. Laughter even has a positive impact, socially!

Is laughter the best medicine?

          1. Physical

Physically, laughter can work wonders. Engaging in regular laughter has been shown to improve physical pain, boost immune function, decrease inflammation, support a healthy heart, and increase brain function. More so, one study showed the effects of regular laughter are similar to that of regular exercise. It works by reducing inflammation in the body, increasing immune activity, and stimulating brain function.

          1. Mental/Emotional

It’s likely no surprise that laughter naturally improves a mental and emotional state. Physiologically, laughter increases endorphins in the body (AKA the happy hormones) creating an opioid-like effect. Yes, that’s right. Laughter is a natural high! For this reason, frequent laughter is extremely helpful in treating anxiety and depression by decreasing stress and boosting mood.

          1. Social

There’s no denying the bonding effect that laughter brings. After a good laugh, two strangers can feel like close friends. Laughter can also dispel tension and promote connection between friends and lovers. Socially, laughing with others eases social anxiety, strengthens relationships, and promotes teamwork. In fact, humor can even be used to effectively and strategically manage conflict or disagreements.

 

While laughter can improve health (physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially), negative feelings and emotions have the opposite effect – often causing harm to the body. Regular negativity has actually been associated with higher amounts of inflammation in the body, leading to increased risk of illness. Needless to say, laughter is frequently just what the doctor ordered! 

 

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Ways to Increase Laughter

Laughter is naturally easier for some people. Often our culture or family upbringing has molded our sense of humor as well as the timing and frequency of our laughter. However, there are strategic ways you can increase laughter in your life, no matter your natural tendencies. Here are the best ways to get started:

 

        • Smile – Simply smiling on a regular basis improves mood and also naturally increases feelings of happiness and joy – all of which lead to laughter! If you’re sitting at your cubicle or out running errands, practice doing so with a smile on your face. After all, smiling is contagious!

 

        • Journaling – Gratitude changes your heart and brain by moving you away from negative thoughts and toward positive feelings. Writing in a gratitude journal is a great way to encourage more laughter on a daily basis. Another option for journaling is to end everyday with the prompt: “Today I laughed because…” This increases your awareness and actually encourages your subconscious to look for humorous things the next day.

 

        • Friendships – They say you become most like the five people you associate with. If for no other reason, your health is a good reason to carefully select these five people. Are your closest friends and family members bringing joy and laughter into your life? If not, it might be time to surround yourself with more people you can laugh with!

 

        • Games – Board games, card games, and even video games, are all great activities to increase laughter. The next time you’re at a social gathering, or just sitting at home with your spouse, suggest playing a game to bring some laughter to the table.

 

        • Entertainment – There are endless amounts of humorous movies, videos, TV shows, skits, and more available to create feelings of giddiness. A few of my go-to favorites are light-hearted sitcoms, celebrity impressions, and stand-up comics.

 

        • Stimulated Laughter – Sometimes, the best you can do is fake it. Surprisingly, fake laughter is actually just as beneficial as the real thing! The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or downright blue, make yourself laugh, even if you have to fake it ‘til you make it.


        • Laughter Yoga – Yes, laughter yoga is a real thing. And, it’s the real deal! According to Laughter Yoga University, laughter yoga, “initiates laughter as a body exercise in a group and with eye contact and childlike playfulness. It soon turns into real and contagious laughter.”

 

        • Play – Move, dance, hop, skip, jump! Humor can be physical and sometimes when we start to move the energy around in our physical bodies, we can release tension and laugh more easily at ourselves and others who are playing with us. Haven’t you ever laughed when someone unexpectedly started dancing at a work meeting or howled with joy while sledding down a snowy hill!

 

        • Surprise! – One of the most important elements of humor is surprise. Saying, doing or seeing something unexpected can make you or someone else burst out in laughter!

 

READ MORE:  PsychoNeuroImmunology - What is it?

In most cases, laughter often isn’t too hard to track down. You can use these fun and simple activities to naturally boost the laughter in your life.

 

How to Develop a Sense of Humor

All laughter starts with having a sense of humor and the ability to appreciate funny moments. However, just as there is no one-fits-all approach to health, there is no one-fits-all approach to humor. Humor comes in all shapes and sizes, so it’s important to understand your humor style.

If your sense of humor is lacking, so will be your opportunities to laugh. So, here are some ways to better develop your sense of humor:

        • Learn to laugh at yourself
        • Reminisce on funny moments
        • Look for the positive, silly, ironic or humorous in every situation
        • Make it a goal to laugh every day
        • Watch/read different types of comedy and comics for exposure

 

For some, humor comes naturally. For others, humor is a learned ability. Regardless, developing a strong sense of humor is one of the best things you can do for your health.

 

FAQs About Laughter

  • What if I feel insincere or fake laughing?

Before you know it, fake laughter will turn into real laughter. The hardest part is getting started. It’s easiest to practice fake laughing when you’re alone, without an audience. So, make it a goal to fake laugh at least once a day. It might feel silly at first, but that’s okay!

 

  • What if my life isn’t very funny?

We all have different life experiences and situations that affect our sense of humor. So, if your life doesn’t feel very funny, learn to incorporate some of the ways listed above to provoke laughter on a daily basis. If you don’t like silly or slapstick humor, check out dry, deadpan or dark humor to see how that lands for you!

 

  • What if I feel embarrassed laughing?

Often, vulnerability is required to laugh more. The best way to practice vulnerability is to learn to laugh at yourself. Most people respond better to vulnerability, than perfection, so don’t take yourself so seriously.

 

As a Functional Medicine Practitioner, laughter is a primary part of my approach to healing. Given it’s powerful effects on health and well-being, I view laughter as a necessary part of every healing journey. For expert guidance and empathic support for healing through laughter, apply to work with me, here!

Dr. Natasha F
[email protected]

Dr. Natasha F is a Doctor, Designer, Speaker and Artist. She specializes in healing autoimmunity through integrative chiropractic, functional neurology, functional medicine, nutrition, homeopathy and narrative medicine.

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