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How Humor Can Improve Healing

August 11, 2020
Published in: Primary Care

Senior couple laughing

Most of us are familiar with the saying, “Laughter is the best medicine.” While laughter isn’t a cure-all, there is scientific proof that laughter can have a positive effect on a person’s health. For instance, a study conducted in 2016 by the Parkinson’s Foundation and Northwestern Memorial Hospital followed Parkinson’s patients through a 12-week study where they participated in improv comedy classes. The results of the study showed patient improvement in mood, stress levels, and focus.

Whether you’re dealing with a serious diagnosis or just trying to be healthier, there’s a benefit to incorporating humor into your health and healing routine. To better understand the impact of humor on our bodies, let’s take a look at the science of humor and explore ways to incorporate humor into everyday life.

The Science of Humor

The reaction to humor is most closely associated with laughter, and it turns out that laughter is a remarkable phenomenon. All humans are born with the ability to laugh, and the function happens primarily on a subconscious and spontaneous level. There’s even evidence to support a genetic link between what you laugh at and how often you laugh. The purpose of laughter is still a bit of a mystery to scientists, but several health promoting reactions occur in the body when a person laughs. These include:

  • Getting the Tension Out – A laughing session relaxes the muscle of the body and relieves muscle tension. This stress-reducing benefit has been observed to last at least 45-minutes after the laughter ends.
  • A Heart Healthy Chuckle – Laughter has been shown to increase blood flow, circulation, and improve blood vessel function.
  • A Feel Good Chemical Release - Laughter releases endorphins, which give you a feeling of well-being and calm. Endorphins have also been proven to reduce pain.
  • An Immune System Booster – The stress relieving benefit of laughter is coupled with an increase in antibodies and cells that fight disease.

While the physical benefits of laughter are promising, laughter also plays a role in good mental health. Laughter helps to diffuse tense situations and can help shift perspectives when feeling overwhelmed or frustrated. Laughter has also been proven to be a catalyst for improving relationships and helping people feel closer to one another.

How to Incorporate More Laughter Into Your Life

When dealing with a serious illness or the everyday stressors of life, it can be easy to find ourselves going extended periods of time without laughter. Like other healthy habits, it can take some focused effort to make sure you’re getting a daily dose of humor. Here are some easy ways to incorporate laughter into your health routine.

  • Surround Yourself with Laughers – We can all probably think of friends or relatives that are great at not taking themselves too seriously and lighten up a room with their positive attitude. Spending time and connecting with playful, upbeat friends and family tends to rub off on us and can spark the laughter we’ve been missing.
  • Gratitude Helps Our Attitude – One way to increase positivity, which often precludes our ability to laugh, is to make note of what you’re grateful for. Keeping a gratitude journal as a daily record of what you’re thankful for is an easy way to increase positivity and set you on the path towards laughter.
  • Seek Out Funny Content – Treating yourself to a comedy show, or watching funny movies or television shows can help inspire laughter.
  • A Walk Down Laughter Lane – Bringing to mind funny, playful moments that made you laugh or smile, can provide a brief respite from the stressors of life. Make time to recall these times while you work on creating more laugh filled memories!

Laughter is an accessible way to bring enjoyment and fun to life, along with added health benefits. Incorporating laughter into everyday life can reduce stress, boost your immune system, and release “feel good” endorphins. With a few simple strategies, you can make sure that you’re reaping the rewards of the classic saying, “Laughter is the best medicine.”