Laughter Therapy: What Is It and Does It Actually Work?

When was the last time you had a good laugh? How did it make you feel? Laughter, whether in the form of a few chuckles or huge guffaws, can quickly turn a bad day into a pleasurable experience. And now, scientists and mental health professionals are also recognizing it as a valuable tool in your overall health.

laughing with family

Laughter is not only beneficial to your mental health, but also to your physical health. With it, the body releases powerful endorphins, your feel-good hormones. In turn, this helps to lessen the stress hormones, such as cortisol, in your body, leading to pain relief and anxiety reduction.

Laughter can also help ease tension in the body, boost your immune system, increase blood flow, enhance mood, and burn calories.

So, doesn’t it make sense that this natural remedy is harnessed into a therapy to help you benefit? Not everyone takes the time to laugh or knows how to let go and laugh. That’s where laughter therapy can help.

What Is Laughter Therapy?

laughing with friendsSource: Shutterstock

Laughter therapy is the practice of using humor and laughter to improve both physical and mental health. These techniques could lead to relaxation and release of tension and negative emotions. Furthermore, they trigger your body to release endorphins, which helps in physical ailments, as well.

Laughter therapy could also work for those with severe illnesses such as cancer. Those experiencing high stress may benefit from this type of therapy, too. 

Also referred to as a therapeutic intervention by some, laughter leads to positive emotions, which has positive effects on a person’s overall well-being.

To top it off, the laughter doesn’t even have to be genuine. It can be stimulated or fake. This fake laughter can provide beneficial effects just as much as the real thing. 

Why? It’s because the body cannot tell the difference between the real and the pretend. Neurotransmitters let loose and send out the same signals. Identical hormones are activated. All processes in the body are the same whether you’re laughing loudly at someone’s joke, or faking a laugh to make you feel better.

Laughter therapy can work in various situations and places, including the workplace, hospitals, rehab centers, and even nursing homes.

An example of a common laughter therapy technique includes the following three phases.

Phase 1: Rhythmic clapping while creating a laugh of ho-ho followed by ha-ha-ha. 

This can start out soft, then build in intensity.

Phase 2: Deep breathing and stretching exercises. 

This leads to relaxed lungs and a more lightened mood.

Phase 3: Begin laughing for no reason and also try out different types of laughs.

These include hearty laughs and laugh techniques that engage both the right and left brain.

Does Laughter Therapy Actually Work?

If you laugh, don’t you feel better? Now just imagine how an entire therapy surrounding the action of laughing can make a difference in someone experiencing pain or anxiety. Studies are beginning to show that laughter itself can be a highly therapeutic ally in both mental and physical ailments.

This laughter therapy can also help those in highly charged emotional situations. In one study, in particular, laughter therapy was found to have a remarkably positive effect on individuals experiencing emotional distress.

This study focused on a group of community volunteers in caring for HIV-infected families. Daily laughter therapy sessions were held for a month. Afterward, the volunteers reported feeling more positive overall. They also reported an improvement in their personal relationships and in their ability to care for the HIV-infected families.

Are you ready to give laughter therapy a try? While you can start laughing by watching a funny movie or getting together with hilarious friends, it’s still best to get a more detailed and focused approach. Spending time with a laughter therapist may be just what you need.

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