Laughter is the Best Medicine

July 1, 2015 Updated: May 26, 2017

We live in an increasingly stressful world, which is all the more reason not to forget the importance of adding laughter to our lives.  When we look for the humor in situations, stress begins to evaporate and our energy is revitalized.  Laughter also oxygenates our brain to give us more energy.  Research shows that laughter has the potential to reduce blood pressure, boost our immune system, improve cardiovascular health, and reduce pain and increase well-being through the release of endorphins, our “feel good” hormones. Generally-speaking, laughter helps us to take a more positive view of life. 

When we fall ill, laughter can help with healing. Norman Cousins was a physician who many years ago suffered from a painful arthritis. After conventional treatment did not help with healing, he took very large doses of Vitamin C and watched reels of comedy movies every day. What did he find? Watching comedy paid off as laughter helped to ease the pain of his arthritis.  Dr. Cousins was on the forefront in realizing the importance of laughter in healing.  When you are sick, but well enough to watch some comedy shows or movies, and really funny ones, keep Dr. Cousin’s story in mind. 

Even without illness, we can practice laughter day-to-day and reap the health benefits. Laughter exercises are easy to practice.  Here are a few tried and true ways to laugh in life and of course there are many more.  This is only meant to be a sample of ways to think about incorporating laughter into your life. 

  • When cooking, especially chopping up food, laugh as you work. If it does not feel natural, it will over time. Faked laughter turns into real laughter with practice.
  • Frustrated driving along in your car stuck in traffic? Rather than get agitated, start laughing. It may feel silly at first, but with practice and the good feelings that come with laughter, you will find that it is not silly at all.
  • Miss that appointment? It is alright to laugh and at the same time learn from our mistakes.
  • When showering, add some humor by laughing as you soap up.
  • Make faces at yourself in the mirror and laugh.
  • Imagine dropping a treasured object and laugh as it breaks into pieces.

Laughter yoga, which involves laughing exercises in groups, is increasingly popular throughout the world.  Laughter yoga groups also allow people to be social, which is so important in our ever-increasing world of technology.  I had my own introduction to laughter yoga in New York City with Beth Bongar, aka The Laughing Diva.  People came to classes for many reasons, including stress, depression, illness, and pain, and walked out of class feeling energized and with a sense of hope.  So intrigued by the experience, I took a workshop and became a Laughing Yoga Leader myself.  It drew a number of people with serious illness, such as cancer, and I was impressed with their dedication in making laughter an integral part of healing.  It was an honor to have met those people and an inspiration.

No matter what the choice, your own home-grown laughter exercises and/or more formalized laughing yoga classes, the idea is to make humor a real part of our lives and not take ourselves so seriously. Make it fun, make it light. The idea is to see humor in situation, laugh at yourself, but not at the expense of others.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates