Laughter IS Medicine

Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”
Psalm 126:2

Rx: Two laughs a day, repeat as needed

Healthcare providers are taking a revolutionary new look at laughter as actual medicine. After all, the definition of medicine is: A drug or other preparation used for the treatment or prevention of disease. Well, move over Prozac, because laughter has been proven to have many physical and mental health benefits.

Norman Cousin wrote “Anatomy of an Illness,” and he describes a very painful spinal condition he has. He discovered that 10 minutes of hearty laughter resulted in 2 hours of restful, pain free sleep. Amazing!

Doctors are beginning to see the power in laughter. It results in an actual physical release for our stress and pain. Laughter releases endorphins, which feels like an opiate to our body—kind of a natural morphine. It seems too simple to be true, but research has shown that laughing reduces our stress, increases our blood flow, and boosts our immune system! The Mayo clinic has published an article listing the short-term and long-term effects of laughter, including a reduction in tension and an increase in personal satisfaction.

The benefits are not limited to physical effects. Laughing has a positive influence on our mental health. While you are laughing, you stop thinking--worry, anxiety, and negativity are suspended for a short time. When the laugh is over, stress is reduced and things may seem less overwhelming.

There is a new practice called Laughter Yoga. It began (not surprisingly) in India by a physician who became intrigued with the health benefits of laughter. What he discovered was that the body doesn’t know the difference between laughter brought on by a funny story, and “pretend” laughter, or just making yourself laugh. The chemical reaction inside the body is the same, and often this forced or unnatural laughter will turn into genuine laughter. Regardless, the good feelings and genuine lift in spirits were very real.

Laughter has no adverse effects!! What other medicine or therapy can claim that? It’s free and can be enjoyed in a group or alone. It needs no special equipment or memberships, and it can be enjoyed anywhere.

Some doctors refer to “tumor humor.” In other words, find the humor in a cancer situation to help you through the rough spots and keep a positive frame of mind. There is even a line of greeting cards along this theme, such as the “I’m Having a No Hair Day” card. One woman tells of the devastation of learning that she had breast cancer. A few days later, her son answered the door and then called out, “Mom, more flowers for your breast.” At that point, she determined that she would look for and find the humor in her situation.

What have you got to lose? Figure out what makes you laugh – cartoons, the Marx brothers, or a comedy act. Have some good laughs and pay attention to the good feelings they produce. And then, do it again!