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6 Mental Health Benefits of Laughter Therapy

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I went into a store to buy some books about turtles. “Hardbacks?” asked the shopkeeper. “Yes,” I replied. “And they have little heads, too. Did you laugh? We hope so. Laughter is one of the most natural human reactions ever since we are babies, and we come to experience it dozens of times a day, and we may not even know all the benefits it has for people when it is used as a complementary therapy.

What are the alternative and complementary therapies?

There is often a belief that alternative and complementary therapies are the same thing, but that’s not true. First off, alternative therapy replaces conventional treatment, for example, treating a disease with acupuncture. On the other hand, complementary therapy is one that, as its name implies, complements, and is carried out at the same time as conventional treatment. An example of this would be a cancer patient who, in addition to being treated with chemotherapy, also does yoga.

What is laughter therapy?

A very popular type of complementary therapy thanks to its effectiveness, is laughter therapy, which is a technique that takes advantage of the endorphins laughing produces, to create great benefits in a person’s emotional and mental state, which also helps a sick person feel much better and prepared to receive their treatment.

What happens when we laugh?

Explained in a simple way, when we laugh, both of our brains’ hemispheres activate, beginning with the left side, and then the right hemisphere, which then allows us to manifest laughter in our faces as a smile together with the laughing sound. When we do this facial expression, we use about 50 facial muscles (the number of muscles that we move depends on the intensity that we laugh with and can be up to 400 muscles). Finally, if the laughter is intense, it may cause tear secretion. 

Thypes of laughter therapy

Laughter therapy can be done in different ways, for example, there is regular laugh therapy, where a psychologist meets with a small group of people and tries to make them laugh. The purpose of doing this in a group is to take advantage of the contagious nature of laughter. Have you ever started laughing as soon as you see someone else is laughing? We’re sure you have. 

On the other hand, laughter yoga is also a known type of laughter therapy, which has even been talked about in a Ted Talk, which consists of performing breathing and stretching techniques, along with yoga exercises to stimulate laughter. You can watch the Ted Talk “Happier in 5 Minutes” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-HJG63EXCmw

Similarly, there is laughter therapy for children, which is one of the most common, in which doctors dress up as clowns and tell jokes to make children feel calmer and less stressed. This practice is common in children’s hospitals and UNICEF with refugee children, victims of natural disasters, or children undergoing treatment for diseases such as cancer. 

One of the greatest exponents of children’s laughter therapy is Patch Adams, a clown doctor who uses laughter to help his patients, who founded his own medical center called Gesundheit! (Health in German) in 1972, where he uses laughter and good humor as a complementary treatment for various diseases. If you are interested in learning more about the mission of Patch Adams and the values of Gesundheit! we recommend you watch the biographical film of Patch Adams, of the same name and starring Robin Williams.

 

Benefits of laughter therapy

You might be wondering, why has it become such a popular type of complementary therapy? The answer is very simple: laughter therapy has proven to have great benefits in people’s physical, mental, and emotional health, especially when we are talking about people who are undergoing some conventional medical treatment at the same time. 

7 physical health benefits

      We will first discuss the physical health benefits:

    1. Laughter strengthens your immune system by increasing the production of T cells, which are responsible for protecting you from infections and cancer. 
    2. Laughing increases your lung capacity, because the vibrations it produces in the diaphragm increase the oxygenation of your lungs, also helping to reduce snoring. 
    3. In addition to strengthening your heart, it also lowers blood pressure and improves venous circulation. 
    4. Laughter relaxes your muscles, reducing tension and increasing your flexibility. 
    5. It improves your digestion and combats constipation. 
    6. Helps you lose weight by burning calories
    7. By laughing, you use your energy, and get tired in a healthy way, fighting insomnia.

6 psychological benefits

      The benefits don’t end. Some of its psychological benefits are the following: 

    1. Shortens negative thoughts
    2. Helps you get rid of shyness
    3. Disinhibits people
    4. Eliminates feelings of fear
    5. Laughter is effective in reducing anxiety, depression, and stress. 
    6. Increases self-esteem

While it’s true that laughter isn’t going to cure cancer or diabetes, it can have other effects on your body that will help you cope with a complicated diagnosis, because laughter releases endorphins, adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin, hormones that help fight pain. Treatments for chronic or severe diseases can take a toll on your mental and emotional health because they are painful and stressful most of the time. All the benefits mentioned above, help the patient establish a better relationship with their family and doctors, improve their mood, and create a more relaxed atmosphere; thus, complementary treatments help the patient’s treatment to become much more bearable.  

In conclusion, laughter is an excellent tool to make us feel better physically, emotionally, and mentally (even if we don’t realize it). Similarly, laughter manages to improve our mood without having negative side effects on our health. Did you know all the benefits of laughter? How do you feel when you laugh so hard you cry? We’d like to read you in the comments.

Created by: Mahui Zamora 

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