Have you heard the saying: Laughter is the best medicine? Well, it’s not just a saying, there’s startling research to back this up. Gelotology or the study of laughter is no joking matter, and there are some definite physical and mental/emotional benefits as well. Let us delve deeper into the barrel of laughs that is laughter therapy.
The formal study of the effect of laughter on the human body appears to have started fairly recently, in the mid-1900’s. Since then a lot of research has been done, and novel ways to use laughter for healing have been developed. One such treatment is laughter yoga. It uses a combination of movements and breathing techniques to stimulate laughter. Although at times laughter is forced, it still has a positive effect.
Laughter helps improve a person’s state of mind; it can lift their mood, contribute to a positive outlook and enhance their sense of wellbeing. It can have an immediate effect on the body, helping to release endorphins, our natural feel-good chemical messengers. This, in turn, helps to ease stress. When we experience stress or anxiety, other chemical messengers are sent through the bloodstream which prepare us for fight or flight, and in the long term, they negatively impact our health. Since stress is a contributing factor in a long list of conditions, we can see how laughing would have a positive effect on our health.
Laughter therapy has been used as an intervention to enhance the psychological wellbeing of care workers, cancer patients, terminally ill patients, children in ICU, dialysis patients, and many others. Studies have demonstrated positive effects for anxiety, depression, tension, and rage. Laughter therapy has been found useful for insomnia, pain relief, increasing immunity and even improving pulmonary function, something that is negatively impacted with exposure to air pollution.
The great thing about laughter is that you can do it in the comfort of your own home. Try this simple experiment. Look in a mirror and laugh. Don’t worry if you feel strange, keep laughing. The body releases endorphins with forced laughter just the same, so keep at it! After you’ve enjoyed a few good belly laughs, observe how you feel? Are you feeling lighter and more at ease? Any change in your mood? If laughing at yourself in the mirror doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then watch a funny film, spend time with that friend that always makes you chuckle, or do anything else that makes you LOL.
Aside from the health benefits, laughter can help in other ways as well. From personal experience, I’ve also learned, that when dealing with kids, laughter is truly the best medicine. When everyone is stubbornly clinging to their own way of thinking, a silly joke can help lighten the mood and dispel tension, giving us the breathing space to re-examine the situation. Sharing a few giggles with our kids (and our spouse too!) can create joyfulness and help increase feelings of closeness. I’ve noticed this effect in my home, and it truly makes laughter music to my ears.
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Dr. Melissa Rodriguez is a naturopathic doctor and mother of two, who works at Beijing United Family Hospital. To find out more, check out her website at
This article appeared on p25 of beijingkids June 2018 issue