The Healing Power of Laughter

Warning: Laughter May Be Hazardous to Your Illness

Laughter Therapy
Sue Chastain

In Proverbs 17:22, it says, "A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones." (NKJV) I like how the New Living Translation says it even better: "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength."

With the high cost of prescription drugs these days, we can all benefit from some good medicine that's free!

According to a 1988 Health Update published in The New York Times, a group called "Nurses for Laughter" at Oregon Health Sciences University wear buttons that say: "Warning: Humor May Be Hazardous to Your Illness." A family practitioner at New Jersey's School of Osteopathic Medicine, Dr. Marvin E. Herring, said, "The diaphragm, thorax, abdomen, heart, lungs and even the liver are given a massage during a hearty laugh." And Dr. William F. Fry of Stanford University said that "laughter stimulates the production of the alertness hormones catecholamines. These hormones in turn cause the release of endorphins in the brain. Endorphins foster a sense of relaxation and well-being and dull the perception of pain."

So why don't we laugh more?

More recently, the Humour Foundation reported that a Brazilian health center is treating patients who suffer from depression, stress, and diabetes with "laughter therapy." Patients are encouraged to "laugh out loud together." This same report claims that laughter therapy cuts health care costs, burns calories, helps arteries and boosts blood flow.

Over the years, many physical benefits to laughter have been reported by doctors and health care professionals. Here are just a few:

  • Decrease in stress hormone levels
  • Strengthening of the immune system
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Pain reduction
  • Lowering of blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular conditioning
  • Natural anti-depressant

So why don't we laugh more?

I grew up in a large Italian family that loves to laugh—out loud. I mean, really loud! I have one uncle who laughs so loud that it used to scare my childhood friends, until I could explain to them, "It's just the way he laughs." This particular uncle was born with a serious disability, but he has lived beyond all of his doctor's expectations. No one expected him to live past 40, but he's in his 80's now and still laughing out loud. My favorite teachers in school were the ones who made me laugh. And I believe I am always eager to learn from my pastor who laces his messages with humor because the laughter opens my mind and my heart to receive.

If you suspect you might be suffering from laughter deprivation, let me encourage you to look for ways to laugh more! It might be just what the Great Physician has prescribed to improve your health and bring joy back into your life. No joke.

Neuroscientist, Jodi Deluca, Ph.D., of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University said, "It doesn't matter why you laugh. Even in small doses, it improves our overall quality of life."

How to Get your Daily Dose of Laughter Therapy:

Learn to Laugh at Yourself
One of the most valuable things I gained during my years living in Brazil, was the ability to laugh at myself. While learning to speak the Brazilian language, I quickly discovered that my attempts to speak every phrase perfectly only hindered my ability to learn. When I let myself go and just spoke what I thought would work, I learned much faster. I also invented some pretty hilarious expressions in the process. My Brazilian friends still remind me of some of these today. Brazilians also consider parody to be a high form of flattery. For entertainment, they would observe the quirky little things that their friends would do and then perform frequent, mini-comedy skits. I can't tell you how incredibly freeing and fun it was to experience the pure hilarity of laughing at myself! Laughing at others rates right up there too.

Don't Take Life Too Seriously
Remember to focus on the lighter side of life. Take time to enjoy your friends, watch a comedy, read the funnies. I'm sure you've heard this before, but life really does go by too quickly to spend it being miserable.

Spend Time with Children
Being around my little nephew is the perfect cure for depression. He's in that stage of rapid discovery and he giggles over every new thing he does and sees. Making him smile is pure contagious joy!

Subscribe to a Joke-a-Day Email List
I'm a terrible joke-teller. I can never remember exactly how it goes, and I always mess up the punch line! But I love to hear a joke and share one with a friend who might be able to tell it better than me.

So why don't we laugh more? Let's get started now ...

Why did the chicken cross the road halfway?
She wanted to lay it on the line.

A police recruit was asked during the exam, "What would you do if you had to arrest your own mother?"
He said, "Call for backup."

Why don't oysters give to charity?
Because they're shellfish.

Hopefully, you're at least smiling by now. So go on—start laughing more!