Studies on the beneficial effects of laughter have been going on for years. Laughter equates with good health: this much we know. It’s been found that laughing during a funny movie, for instance, can elevate the pain threshold and assist in breaking the cycle between pain, sleep loss, immunosuppression and depression.
It’s also known that laughter reduces blood pressure, epinephrine, and glucose levels, also increasing glucose tolerance. According to PsychiatricTimes, laughter can also assist in:
- Preventing cancer by boosting natural killer-cell activity
- Improving defenses against respiratory infections
- Producing endorphins that have both euphoric and calming effects
Laughter, a physical expression of humor and joy, brings about many protective qualities. In fact, it’s one of the ideal methods of managing perceptions of stress, the development of resilience, and the improvement of psychological fortitude. Happiness and humor can also lead to improvements in brain function, backed by evidence of increased connectivity in the brain in terms of responses to laughter.
In addition, humor can actually release brain-derived neurotrophic factors (these support existing neurons and encourage the growth of new ones as well as synapses).
The healthcare and medicinal industries have long recognized the importance of humor, dating back to the 1300s when professor of surgery Henri de Mondeville used humor as a post-operative therapy.
Laughter for Better Mental Health
Laughter yoga – a technique that encourages people to mimic the act of laughter to achieve positive psychological outcomes – can reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety, and even improve sleep in those with Parkinson disease. Humor following the death of a spouse is known to promote greater emotional resilience.
Freud suggested that humor is a defense mechanism of the psyche that we can use to prevent anxiety. Even black humor or “Gallows” humor has its place, as it can offer relief under traumatic circumstances, thereby lessening tension and helping people cope with stress.
Research from the National Institutes of Health shows that humor can:
- Relieve pain
- Improve positive emotion
- Moderate stress
- Build immune function
- Improve interpersonal processes
- Dissociate from distress
Not only is laughter a good coping mechanism to relieve stress and keep tension from building, it can shift your perception of a certain situation so that it seems less threatening. If you can offer a humorous perspective, you can actually build psychological distance from feelings of being overwhelmed, sad and depressed.
On top of that, laughing with others strengthens relationships, bringing about a sense of closeness and diminishing feelings of loneliness.
Achieving good mental health takes into account many different factors, of course, but humor plays a vital role in the maintenance and development of positive feelings. In terms of mental health, laughter truly is the best medicine.
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