The Benefits of Laughter

Posted by: Asa Don Brown on September 2, 2011 10:52 am

What is Laughter? 

Laughter is the ability to create sound as a reaction to a stimuli evoked by internal or external events, situations, or persons.   It is this physical manifestation that is signaled by a state of being; a state of thought; or as an emotional response. Laughter is the body’s release valve, allowing for the pressure within the body, both good and bad, to manifest through a physical expression and a vocal inflection.  Laughter is an exhilarating experience that can be fueled by having a basic sense of purpose.

There are varying types of laughter from a chuckle, chortle, giggle, titter, twitter, roar, bellow, cackle, tee-hee, snicker, and a laugh.  Laughter is the ability to express one’s internal emotions with an external expression.    

Laughter is the purest form of communication.  It expresses our real desires and intent.   Through laughter we are capable of being real, genuine, and authentically ourselves.  Dr. Robert Provine of University of Maryland, suggests that laughter is perhaps the earliest form of language known unto humankind.  Dr. Provine has suggested that laughter predated the spoken language.  Laughter’s ignition begins at the earliest stages of life. 

Dr. Johannson fondly recalls her strongest memories of laughter being associated with her father.  “The first vision that comes to my mind on the topic of laughter is of my dear father and seeing him laughing so many times… it was wonderful to see.. and actually when I think of him, I see him laughing… about even the simplest matters.” 

The Physiological Effects of Laughter

Laughter has long been considered good medicine. Research backs up this old adage.  “…Researchers at the University of Maryland … have shown for the first time that laughter is linked to healthy function of blood vessels. Laughter appears to cause the tissue that forms the inner lining of blood vessels, the endothelium, to dilate or expand in order to increase blood flow.” (Science Daily, 2011) Research is increasing our awareness on the positive effects of laughter, while also shedding light on the negative effects of increased stress hormones.

“Laughter reduces the level of stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline), dopamine and growth hormone. It also increases the level of health-enhancing hormones like endorphins, and neurotransmitters. Laughter increases the number of antibody-producing cells and enhances the effectiveness of T cells. All this means a stronger immune system, as well as fewer physical effects of stress.” (Scott, 2011)

Physical Health Benefits 
Eases / Relaxes Muscle TensionPrevents Heart Disease
Reduces CortisolLowers Stress Hormones
Increases Lymphocyte BlastogenesisBoosts Immunity
Decreases Physical Pain ReceptorsIncreases Endorphins
Increases DopamineImproves Respiratory
Increases Oxygen LevelsIncreases T-cells
Increases Blood CirculationIncreases Catecholamines
Reduces Cellular DecayLower Blood Sugar Levels

 

Psychological – Cognitive Benefits of Laughter

The psychological benefits of laughter are profound.  Whether you are experiencing moments of health concerns, interpersonal issues, financial struggles, or personal challenges. Under such stressful circumstances pay attention to, delight in and cherish the moments of de-stressing laughter.  Research has discovered that authentic laughter can heal, aid and prevent a number of mental health related issues. 

Psychological-Cognitive Health Benefits 
RelaxationChange Your Facial Expression – Features
Restful SleepBuilds Rapport With Others
Counteract Depressive FeaturesImproves Brain Function
Counteract AnxietyRelieves Stress
Counteract Psychosomatic ProblemsReleases Negative Feelings and Emotions
Improves Your CognitionIncreases Your Social Attraction
Encourages CreativityAmplifies Resiliency
Improves MoodImproves Memory and Alertness

 

Accountable Laughter

Everyone should have someone that they can be accountable unto.  It is important that people can check in with others from time-to-time, on ‘whether they have had moments of laughter’ or not.  Laughing with other people can prove more beneficial than laughing alone.  However, do not discount laughing alone, because any form of laughter can deflate the negative stimuli, thus fostering the positive.  

Visualization            

Laughter can be manifested through purposeful desire and a conscience effort.  If, you desire to laugh, but have not laughed in sometime, or you are simply needing a spirit of laughter, it can be manifested through conscience effort.  Visualize on a positive event that brought laughter to your life.  Think upon this event and let yourself be back in that moment.  You will transcend the negative and your spirit will be uplifted.  Remember to pay attention to moments of delight; focus on the joy and peace that they have created, in order that you have a reservoir of memories to draw upon, even in challenging times. 

Encouraging Laughter

Allow yourself to laugh at thyself.  Do not be afraid to take yourself less serious.  For therapists, do not be afraid to use laughter in the therapeutic environment. Laughter is capable of de-escalating a hostile situations.  Encourage your patients to practice daily laughter.  Laughter can be obtained through: reading a humorous book; playing with children; watching or listening to a movie, television or radio show containing comedic characters; and spending time laughing with friends.  

Laughter has a medicinal benefit; it can heal the mind, the body, and the soul.  It is laughter that can lift our spirits when we are down and break the bondage of stress. 

Children need for parents to model laughter.  They need to learn that it is okay to simply laugh, to be silly, and to find humor in life.  It is important that they learn to simply laugh and to be themselves.  They need to learn to look past the difficulties of life, with an understanding that “this too shall pass.”

Consider the following

Laughter should be practiced on a daily and frequent basis.  You should consider taking time to simply laugh, even if it feels strange; make yourself laugh.  Purposeful laughter will prompt real laughter.  Laughing will increase your immune system.  It will brighten your day and others. 

To promote daily laughter, you might even consider getting involved in Laughter Groups, Laughter Yoga, and other forms of laugh related organizations. 

Laughter

Laughter’s benefits are plentiful.  The benefits for your body and your mind are limitless. Approach life with the expectation that you will laugh and find pleasure in it.  Remember to live, love, and laugh.

The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter.

 ~ Mark Twain

References

Berk, L. (2011)  Dr. Lee Berk of Loma Linda University. Retrieved August 27, 2011 from http://www.llu.edu/pages/faculty/directory/portfolio_activity.php?uid=lberk&catid=5 

DiChristina, M. (2009) Laughter as medicine — And other stories from MIND. Retrieved August 27, 2011 from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=from-the-editor-mind-mar-09

Provine, R. (2011) Robert Provine – Research. Retrieved August 28, 2011 from http://www.umbc.edu/psyc/faculty/provine/research.html

Science Daily (2011) University of Maryland School of Medicine Study Shows Laughter Helps Blood vessels function better  Retrieved August 25, 2011 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/03/050309111444.htm

Scott, E. (2011) The stress management and health benefits of laughter. Retrieved August 25, 2011 from http://stress.about.com/od/stresshealth/a/laughter.htm

Skinner, N., Brewer, N. (2002) The dynamics of threat and challenge appraisals prior to stressful achievements. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 83 (3) 678-92.

Authors:  Dr. Asa Don Brown and Dr. Eunice Johannson, PhD, Alberta Registered Psychologist, Neuropsychologist




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

16 comments on “The Benefits of Laughter”

  1. I really like what you’re providing here. Keep working that way. Take care!

    1. Dear Valerie Runyons

      Thank you for your warm remarks.

      May my future articles prove equally as beneficial

      Warm Regards
      Dr. Asa Don Brown

  2. bryan curry says:

    I read an article a while back that Japaneese factory workers started each day by laughing for 5 minutes. This activity cut down on absentees, increased productivity, produced less mistakes and workers had less health problems. I wanted to try it with the kids at work, but they would not buy into laughing. How depressing!! So I have to humor them on an individual basis now.

    1. Dear Bryan Curry,

      I am sincerely appreciative of your very insightful remarks today. Is not an interesting experience that laughter can be an obstacle for so many; while anger and other negative expressions seem to be universally an acceptable expression of emotion?

      Again, I am appreciative of your review and your insightful message.

      May you have a truly blessed day.

      Warm Regards,

      Dr. Asa Don Brown

  3. Dear Dr. Asa,

    I realy enjoyed your so stimulating article!

    In dramatherapy method we laugh often, as the method has many technics that are based on play…

    Nice article. Thanks!

    Dimitra Stavrou (Psychologist/Dramatherapist)

    1. Dear Dimitra Stavrou

      Thank you for taking the time to reply to my article. I also appreciate the insights into “drama therapy.” I have been involved in the past in a few drama therapeutic experiences (conferences etc), but honestly, I do not use drama therapy on a personal note. However, I would love to learn the benefits and process of applying such a technique.

      Thank you again for taking the time to review my article.

      Warm Regards,

      Dr. Asa Don Brown

  4. Good point! I especially like the part about recalling moments of delight. I will share one: At an adult birthday party dinner, there were 2 children. They are 10 years apart so one just entered high school and the other just started kindergarten. At one point, the little one just linked her arm into her older sister’s and snuggled up to her with such joy and love—a legitimate burst of affection—and I caught it on camera! So, I smile everytime I look at it.
    I like this post, I will probably link to it on my blog or quote you. thanks.

    1. Dear Paula Young, LMFT,

      Thank you for your very warm remarks. I appreciate your tell of these two children. What an awesome visual memory! I loved it! I have two daughters, and I can’t wait to see them start playing. My daughters are 7 1/2 and 6 months, so playing together at this point is relative. However, I must admit that eldest daughter loves playing and spending time with her little sister.

      I am going to check out your blog too. Again, thank you for your very warm remarks.

      Warmest of Thoughts,

      Dr. Asa Don Brown

  5. Great reminder of the benefits and power of laughter in our lives. Lets adopt this wonderful habit and watch our health as well as our love life improve.

    1. Dear Sylvie Stanley,

      Thank you for your very warm remarks. I am appreciative.

      I agree, we should “… adopt this wonderful habit and watch our health as well as our love life improve.”

      Thank you for your time and feedback.

      Warmest of Thoughts,

      Dr. Asa Don Brown

  6. Tracy Pitt says:

    Great article! Thank you! Laughter cannot be emphasized enough as a great remedy for whatever ails you. Proverbs 17:22 A merry heart does good, like medicine. Laughing 100-200 x=10 minutes of rowing or jogging. So I am going to laugh today, how about you?

    1. Dear Tracy Pitt,

      “So I am going to laugh today, how about you?”

      Answering your question, I am going to laugh today. In fact, I think I am going to add laughter as a part of my daily life routine.

      Tracy, thank you for your very warm remarks and positive feedback.

      Warmest of Thoughts,

      Dr. Asa Don Brown

  7. Allen Penrod says:

    I enjoyed this article. It is a very complete description of the benefits of laughter. Please accept this petty comment. There quite a number of grammatical errors in your test.

    1. Dear Allen Penrod,

      Thank you for your positive remarks and constructive feedback. I am appreciative of your positive feedback.

      Warmest of Thoughts,

      Dr. Asa Don Brown

  8. Deborah Pickering says:

    Hi Asa,
    Good article, caused me to force out some laughter. It is so true isn’t it? When one is consumed by anger or grief, or any other negative emotion, laughter lightens ones spirit. I love laughing yet it seems as though I don’t do it very often. I suppose one could view laughter as a fitness activity. It can take some time to get started with the program, but once involved one is left wondering, “What took me so long to get started?”. Ha, ha, ha, Cheers, Deb P

    1. Dear Deb P.

      I am sincerely appreciative of your remarks. I wholeheartedly agree, laughter “lightens ones spirit.” I also love the right and privilege of laughter.

      Warmest of Thoughts,

      Dr. Asa Don Brown

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