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Laughter: A Natural Therapy

August 17, 2022

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By Christa Banister

Maybe it’s a popular meme or a witty pun. An outrageously hilarious scene from a favorite movie, or a comedian riffing on the ups and downs of relationships, parenting, or life. It may even be that funny thing that happened to you or a friend on the way to work, at the grocery store, or while on a date.

Studies from the National Library of Medicine’s Center for Biotechnology Information have shown that it’s worth leaning into whatever tickles your funny bone. Not only does humor provide a welcome reprieve from the depressing headlines of the day, but the tangible health benefits of laughter include:

  • A reduction in stress hormone levels
  • Positive effects on mental health
  • Improved immune system function
  • Pain relief
  • A boost in endorphins, which bolsters your mood
  • A good workout for the heart, less muscle strain in the shoulders, and abdominal contractions without crunches or sit-ups
  • A dose of levity in a frustrating moment or stressful situation
  • A way to connect with friends that promotes joy
  • Enhanced oxygen intake

Focus on Feeling Like a Kid Again

Considering all the health benefits of laughter, you might assume that most adults have gotten the memo and crack up as much as possible. However, a recent study reported the significant chasm in laughter between children and adults. While healthy children may laugh as much as 400 times per day, adults average only 15 laughs per day.

While healthy children may laugh as much as 400 times per day, adults average only 15 laughs per day.

No doubt, the responsibilities that come with #adulting probably factor into the laughing-a-lot-less equation. But in terms of managing stress, the benefits, convenience, and fact that laughter doesn’t cost anything or require a prescription or doctor’s visit makes tapping into the lighter, funnier side of life a worthwhile pursuit.

Proving that laughter is the best form of therapy, it’s being incorporated into group therapy sessions and even yoga.

What is Laughter Yoga?

We’re all familiar with the calming, meditative effects, and increased flexibility that comes with practicing yoga. But what if yoga had the additional benefit of drawing out your inner child and helping you let go of stress, all while reducing your risk of chronic disease?

Well, that’s the mindset behind laughter yoga (also known as laughing yoga), which began in Mumbai, India and has expanded to more than 5,000 clubs worldwide, reports Piggybacking off the idea that laughter is contagious, laughing yoga is conducted in a group setting and involves a series of breathing experiences and movements that promote laughter on cue. In other words, just like your favorite sitcom reruns, your life can also have its own laugh track.

Dr. Madan Kataria, the family physician who developed laughter yoga in India discovered that learning to laugh on cue had the same healthful effects as laughing spontaneously at a joke or television show.

And the regular cultivation of laughter that stemmed from the practice is the real game-changer. His research indicated that it helped to increase energy levels, improve participants’ overall moods, as well as their ability to better manage hardships as they arose.

How What Makes Us Laugh Changes Over Time

While laughter is considered a universal trait among humans from all cultures and corners of the earth, what we actually find funny can change with age and life experience.

In a study highlighted in The Atlantic, there was a pronounced generation gap in what people found funny. While younger and middle-aged people found the eyebrow-raising antics of Michael Scott portrayed by Steve Carell in The Office funny, the older participants didn’t find the clips very chuckle-worthy.

For them, the humor seesawed too aggressively toward outright meanness. Instead, they preferred humor that was typically more life-affirming and brought people together, evidenced by laughs prompted by a clip from The Golden Girls. While the scene involved an embarrassing moment, the humor wasn’t perceived as being at the expense of the leading ladies.

While what makes us laugh may change, its intrinsic value to our lives doesn’t, according to staff at the Mayo Clinic. Having a well-honed sense of humor and spending time with others who laugh easily may not cure all that ails, but it will contribute to a happier and healthier life.

Having a well-honed sense of humor and spending time with others who laugh easily may not cure all that ails, but it will contribute to a happier and healthier life.

Whether it’s a funny podcast, a joke your 8-year-old nephew tells you, or a laugh-out-loud birthday card sent by a friend, laughter is a helpful antidote to a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day. It can also help with anxiety and is a natural-born stress reliever. Try it, you’ll see.

Is depression, anxiety, or addiction keeping you from seeing the humor in life? The Meadows is here to help you begin a new chapter of healing and learn to laugh again. Our caring team of experts are here 24/7 to answer your questions. Don’t hesitate to reach out today.