Laughter is good medicine


by Mary Rains

Mille Lacs Health System

Our bodies, minds, and spirits can get a little help with healing using humor and laughter as medicine.

Humor can help alleviate anxiety, depression, pain, and stress, and other body/mind issues. It comforts, boosts the immune system, relaxes, and has been known to aid in recovery from illness and surgery. Looking at life through the lens of humor takes one’s mind off situations and sensations that can block a good mental outlook. And clinicians know that a good mental outlook is essential to healing.

Laughter has shown to have positive, quantifiable effects on physiological, psychological, social, and spiritual health; as well as quality-of-life benefits.

Some studies have shown that our bodies activate pain-killing hormones called endorphins when we laugh. Laughter also reduces cortisol, which can help sharpen our memory.

Not only does humor affect our physiology in a positive way, but it can also help us take ourselves less seriously and puts our problems into perspective.

If you continually feel you are stuck in a negative cycle you can’t get out of, try this exercise. To get “out of yourself” and a problem you’re struggling with, take your situation and, from that, create something far bigger than it is. You may think this will cause more stress, but, blowing the problem up will allow you to see the absurdity of it, the humor in it, and how – as our mothers would say– it could be worse. An exercise like this helps you get distance from your struggles and, possibly, see a solution you hadn’t thought of before.

Though humor as a tool to lift sagging spirits is an established notion supported by research, you don’t need science to tell you how great you feel after having some deep belly laughs (the ones that bring you to tears). Positive emotions alone may not be enough to be called a “cure-all” but they do help one become more optimistic and happy. The curative power of laughter and its ability to assist the human body and mind in coming into balance is a great tool to have in your coping toolbox.