The Benefits of Laughter In Dealing With Illness

Education Center

Whether you are watching a funny video or joking around with friends, your laughter is doing great things for your body, including relieving stress, stimulating your organs, improving your immune system, and relieving pain.

For many people, humor is a way to gain a sense of control. Laughter can help you relax. When you laugh, your brain releases chemicals that produce pleasure and relax your muscles. Even a smile can fight off stressful thoughts.

For many people, humor is a way to gain a sense of control. Laughter can help you relax. When you laugh, your brain releases chemicals that produce pleasure and relax your muscles. Even a smile can fight off stressful thoughts.

Not to mention, laughter increases personal satisfaction and improves mood, which is especially helpful for patients and their families who are facing a chronic or terminal illness. Laughter can help lessen depression and anxiety and make you feel better, according to The Mayo Clinic.

Laughter is good medicine, even at life’s end. That’s the title of an article from USA Today that speaks to laughter helping relieve stress during the process of dying. And if not laughter, at least a willingness to occasionally make light of the peculiarities — if not absurdities — that often go hand-in-hand with end-of-life situations.

The article states: An aging generation of Boomers, the oldest of whom are now 70, grew up to the background sounds of TV laugh tracks and are accustomed to laughing at things that might not always seem so funny. There’s even a non-profit organization funded by donors, conference revenue and membership dues, whose mission is simply reminding people that laughter is a core ingredient of all facets of life — even end of life.

Even the National Institutes of Health lists the following Finding Humor and Laughing as part of its Coping With Cancer strategies:

The NIH States: You can still have joy in your life while having cancer. Sometimes people with cancer try new, fun things that they have never done before. For instance, have you always wanted to ride in a hot air balloon or go on a boat cruise? What fun things have you always wanted to try, but have never taken the time to do?

Try to do something just for fun, not because you have to do it. But be careful not to tire yourself out. Some people get depressed when they are too tired. Make sure to get enough rest so you feel strong and can enjoy these fun activities.

Finding Humor and Laughing

If you like to joke with your friends and family don’t stop now. For many people, humor is a way to gain a sense of control. Laughter can help you relax. When you laugh, your brain releases chemicals that produce pleasure and relax your muscles. Even a smile can fight off stressful thoughts. Of course, you may not always feel like laughing, but other people have found that these ideas can help:

  • Ask people to send you funny cards
  • Enjoy the funny things children and pets do
  • Watch funny movies or TV shows
  • Listen to comedy recordings
  • Buy a funny desk calendar
  • Read humor-related books or articles
  • Check out websites and videos on the Internet. If you don’t own a computer, use one at your local library

 

The Cancer Treatment Centers of America has this to say about laughter as therapy:

The healing power of laughter

For people living with cancer, it may seem strange to find humor when facing such serious issues. Yet, laughter may be helpful in ways you may not have realized or imagined.

Laughter may help you feel better about yourself and the world around you. Laughter may be a natural diversion. When you laugh, no other thought comes to mind. Laughing may also induce physical changes in the body. After laughing for only a few minutes, you may feel better for hours.

When used in addition to conventional cancer treatments, laughter therapy may help in the overall healing process.

According to some studies, laughter therapy may provide physical benefits, such as helping to:

  • Enhance oxygen intake
  • Stimulate the heart and lungs
  • Relax muscles throughout the body
  • Trigger the release of endorphins (the body’s natural painkillers)
  • Ease digestion/soothe stomach aches
  • Relieve pain
  • Balance blood pressure
  • Improve mental functions (i.e., alertness, memory, creativity)

Laughter therapy may also help to:

  • Improve overall attitude
  • Reduce stress/tension
  • Promote relaxation
  • Improve sleep
  • Enhance quality of life
  • Strengthen social bonds and relationships
  • Produce a general sense of well-being

 

Read more on studies that prove laughter is good medicine.