The power of laughter
Two nuns, a penguin and a man with a parrot on his shoulder walk into a bar.
The bartender says, “What is this? Some kind of joke?”
Laughter can be a powerful antidote to depression and anxiety – without a prescription and without side effects.
Laughter relieves tension, improves our sense of well-being, serves as an outlet for anger and provides a healthy escape from reality.
Research has proven the benefits of laughter for our mental health. In one study, says Faiz Qadri, MD, director of the Creighton University Mood Disorders Clinic, movie-watching patients who watched only comedies for three months had measurably more enhanced positive attitude and social interaction than patients who watched a variety of types of movies. “I recommend to my patients that they watch a comedy every week,” he says.
Our brains actually process laughter to produce mood-lifting brain chemicals.
“Laughter causes our body to release a bath of serotonin and other “feel good” chemicals into the blood stream and opens us up to experiencing a situation differently,” says Tian Dayton PhD, author of Emotional Sobriety: From Relationship Trauma to Resilience and Balance. “It reduces at least four of the neuroendocrine hormones associated with the stress response: epinephrine, cortisol, dopac, and growth hormone.”
Good for the mind; good for the body
Laughter is good medicine for our bodies, as well as our minds. By increasing our intake of oxygen, our bodies produce potent chemicals that relax muscles, strengthen the immune system, lower blood pressure and ease digestion. It’s been found to cause the body to produce natural painkillers. A good belly laugh can provide a cardio workout. Dayton calls it “internal jogging.”
How to bring more laughter into your life
- Surround yourself with humor: Spend time with people who make you laugh. Clip jokes and cartoons and keep them handy at home, at work, even in your car. You may find coworkers dropping by to chuckle with you.
- Try Hollywood therapy: Watch movies that make you laugh out loud when you’re feeling down or stressed.
- Join others for therapeutic laughter at a local laughter club or laughter yoga group. These popular settings for stimulated laughter exercises can be found around the world.
Is laughter the best medicine? “I would prescribe five to ten minutes of laughter every eight hours!” says Dr. Qadri, laughing heartily.