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The quote, “Laughter is the best medicine,” has more truth to it than you realize.

Humor skills or habits—having a propensity to laugh, the enjoyment of humor, the ability to laugh at oneself—are some of the main signature strengths one can possess.

In fact, the non-pharmacologic approach of laughter therapy revolves around it.

What Is Laughter Therapy?

Laughter therapy is a humor-induced intervention that calls for creating a cheerful environment. It can be spontaneous (triggered by positive emotions), simulated (triggered by the individual at will), stimulated (triggered by tickling), induced (triggered by drugs like nitrous oxide), and pathological (triggered by neuronal damage).

Unfortunately, adults only laugh about 15 times a day on average, which might put them at risk for functional disability according to a study on older Japanese adults. Hence, it is more important than ever to incorporate laughter into your everyday routine.

Benefits of Laughter Therapy: How Clowning Around Can Help

Laughter therapy offers many physiological and psychological benefits, such as:

Burns Calories

Laughter burns calories, though not to the extent that it can be an effective weight-loss technique. But, if you laugh for 15 minutes a day, you could easily lose 10 to 40 calories. If you do it consistently, a good belly laugh every day can help you lose 4 pounds in a year!

Improves Mood

Laughter can be a powerful non-pharmacological alternative treatment for conditions like depression, a condition that affects 8.3% of the U.S. adult population (2021). For context, that’s an estimated 21 million adults!

Inexpensive laughter therapy can curb depressive moods by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, giving your “fight-or-flight” reflex a break. Furthermore, it secretes endorphins (the brain’s natural pain reliever) while altering dopamine and serotonin activity to mitigate the effects of stress and make you feel happier.

It lightens your burdens and inspires hope, bringing your body and mind into balance.

Increases Life Satisfaction

A 2010 randomized controlled trial on 70 depressed old women in Tehran, Iran, found that laughter yoga and exercise decreased depression scores.

Interestingly, the laughter yoga group showed a more significant increase in life satisfaction compared with the control group, making it a more effective course of treatment for coping with difficult and stressful situations.

Reduces Pain

Did you know that you can literally laugh your pain away?

Studies proved that humor and laughter can effectively cause the body to produce its own painkillers and can even increase your tolerance for pain!

A 2010 study on older adults showed that humor therapy can be a great method for health maintenance. Something as simple as telling a joke or asking patients to tell a funny story can have therapeutic effects. It is also said to create “euphoric states,” which evidence suggests is associated with the release of endorphins.

Relieves the Stress Response

According to a 2020 article, laughing can have a stress-buffering effect on your life.

Meanwhile, a 2016 study highlights the benefits of this sensation in decreasing serum levels of cortisol, 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid, epinephrine, and the growth hormone, indicating a reversal of stress. This is backed by a 2017 review which shows that it increases the activation of the mesolimbic dopaminergic reward system.

Helps Build Social Connections

According to a 2017 study, laughter can be a critical factor in building relationships. It communicates to others that we share similar worldviews, momentarily boosting our sense of connection. Being able to laugh, even during tough times, can also bring you and your spouse closer together so be sure to look for joy everywhere!

Soothes Tension and Improves Heart Health

Laughter can increase the heart rate, causing you to inhale deeply and catch your breath. Deep breathing improves your lung function and capacity while stimulating the circulation of oxygenated blood throughout your body. And since we know it can release feel-good endorphins, we can safely say that it aids muscle relaxation and relieves tension from your heart, giving you a jumpstart to a happy, healthy life.

Plus, it leaves your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes which may ease anxiety.

Stronger Immune System

Humor and laughter can significantly increase immune function by stimulating the production of infection-fighting antibodies and enhancing the efficiency of natural killer cells, improving your resistance to diseases. Not just that—by increasing your immune function, it can also protect you from the damaging effects of stress!

And when you think positive thoughts, you release neuropeptides that have anti-stress and anxiolytic properties.

Top 4 Laughter Therapy Exercises To Achieve Peak Health

The laughter prescription is perhaps the best way to ensure health without any interventions from medicines and their side effects.

Want to give it a try? Take a look at these tried-and-tested exercises:

Contagious Laughter

Laughter is contagious and can spread from person to person. Crack a joke to lighten a situation and see if the group you’re with doesn’t break into laughter.

Counting Laughs

Take stock of how many times you laugh per day. Make an effort to add humor to your regular activities and boost your daily laugh count.

Silent Laughter

Not all laughter is loud and boisterous. Snickering, chuckling, and suppressed laughter can also benefit you.

Swinging Laughter

Even laughter is easier and more fun when you do it with others. Swinging laughter is a group activity where people in a circle move toward the center while making silly sounds like prolonged “Ae, Ae, Aeeeee.” Raise your hands as you do so and burst into laughter when you meet in the middle.

Or, you can just watch a funny movie on Netflix to tickle your funny bone!

Conclusion: Make It a Laughing Matter

The fast-paced world we live in can make us prone to dark moods and negativity. So, the next time you find yourself going through difficult times, make it a point to get your giggles in and you’re bound to feel a little lighter.

Note that while laughter doesn’t replace conventional treatments (you should still do what your doctor tells you), it can be an excellent complementary therapy.