Free Therapy for the Blues and Pain? Science Says It’s Laughter

Free Therapy for the Blues and Pain? Science Says It’s Laughter

If we told you there’s an easy way to boost your wellbeing, exercise your heart, relax your muscles, decrease pain, and help your blood pressure chill, you’d probably laugh.

And you’d be on to something.

A chuckle – or a side-splitting laughing fit – can have all these benefits and more! The science behind laughter is no joke. When you learn all the good it can do for you, you’ll definitely want more in your life.

Read on to learn why laughter is a therapy worth testing when you’re sick, feeling low, or stressed out, and how to get more in your life.

Laughter Helps Us Feel Better & Cope

Laughing can improve your mood because it literally gives you a shot of endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin while dropping your production of stress hormones like cortisol and catecholamines. Yet, laughter doesn’t just make you feel better. Studies show that  laughing, whether spontaneous and simulated, gives your heart a workout like exercising.

A six-minute giggle fest doesn’t replace a workout, but it gets your heart pumping like aerobic activity. We breath in more oxygen-rich air and energize our lungs and muscles. Plus, after laughing intensely, our muscles relax for up to 45 minutes!

Laughter’s ability to help us heal, physically and mentally, is even more powerful. Research shows it’s a successful complementary therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, chronic pain, and immune function while we battle serious illnesses.

In a study of cancer patients, laughter decreased their stress and improved immune function by boosting the activity of natural killer cells, our innate cells that fight disease and viral infections. Seniors in an adult care facility experienced a decrease in blood pressure, body pain, and depression after watching four weeks of stand-up comedy! Elderly persons in another study found that watching humorous videos improved their ability to learn and their memory.

Laughter therapy is so mighty that researchers say it’s what we need to deal with the ongoing stress and anxiety related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Therapeutic laughter is a non-invasive, cost-effective, and easily implementable intervention that can be used during this pandemic as a useful supplementary therapy to reduce the mental health burden,” the study reads.

15 Ways to Elicit Laughter Daily

How do we foster more laughter and reap these benefits? First, set an intention to cultivate more laughter in your life. Next, give yourself permission to be silly and laugh at yourself when it’s fitting. Finally, dedicate time for humor. Put a laugh break on your calendar!  

To be more mirthful, we may need to practice. Try these 15 ideas and see what tickles your funny bone!

  1. Smile more. Smiling also releases endorphins.
  2. Recall a funny story; share it with others.
  3. Write jokes about your funny stories. Share!
  4. Buy a daily joke calendar and start each day with a laugh.
  5. Download a daily joke app – they’re dozens.
  6. Watch stand-up comedy or a humorous sitcom.
  7. Fill a joke jar with your favorite funnies.
  8. Make a scrapbook of funny things, events, and sayings.
  9. Ask a preschooler to describe things. No little at home? Try Kid History on YouTube.
  10. Get a pet (or watch other people’s funny pet clips).
  11. Join a laughter yoga class, in person or virtually.
  12. Try a laughing meditation. Join an online practice or with breathwork, simply add “ha ha ha ha” to your exhale while lifting your shoulders with each “ha.” (It’s nearly impossible not to giggle!)
  13. Start a silly joke challenge with friends.
  14. Recall three funny things that happened each day, before you go to bed.
  15. Record a “Laughie,” a 1-minute laughing video of yourself laughing and watch it three times a day. A study by the Laughie creator showed that it evokes laughter and lifts wellbeing immediately. See an example of two friends’ Laughie.
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