How Laughter Can be Therapeutic

“If you can’t make it better, laugh at it.” Erma Bombeck

Erma was a therapist in her own right, dishing our humorous observations and anecdotes about suburban home life in her newspaper column which ran from the 1960’s all the way into the 1990’s. She was no stranger to pain, and used difficult circumstances in her life to inspire and culture an attitude of gratefulness amongst her readers.

This attitude of optimism is something that helps us through times when we may feel stuck in the mud or buried beneath our burdens. When faced with a challenging circumstance the first question one must ask is, “Can I do anything to make the situation any better?” If the answer is no, Bombeck says that the next best thing is to laugh at it.

Laughter has been called the best medicine, and in many cases this is the truth. The health benefits associated with laughter are often overlooked. However, author of the book Laughter, Robert R. Provine, PhD, states that laughter elevates blood pressure and boosts the heart rate.

The Mayo Clinic calls the stress relief provided by laughing “no joke.” In the short term, laughter enhances oxygen-rich air which stimulates the heart, muscles and lungs while increasing endorphins that are released in the brain.

The benefits of laughter are not just short-term. Thinking negatively can result in chemical reactions that bring more stress to the body and compromise immunity. In contrast, thinking positively releases neuropeptides that help fight stress and possibly more serious illnesses. Laugher can ease pain and help the body make its own natural painkillers. Laugher has also been shown to reduce anxiety and depression and improve happiness.

laughterMultiple studies have concluded that optimism has a positive impact on our overall well-being. One 1970′s study from Oxford, Ohio, surveyed the happiness levels and attitudes of its residents. An analysis of the data found that the residents surveyed who had a positive outlook on their lives lived approximately 7.6 years longer than those who did not.

Action Step: Try to see – and laugh at – the lighter side of life at least once a day. Even better, try to keep a positive outlook and laugh as much as you can! Whether you are joking with a friend, watching your children play, or laughing at a comedian, laughter is highly therapeutic.

-The Alternative Daily


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