Living with Chronic Pain
Is Laughter the Best Medicine?
Source: Mayo Clinic, Everyday Health, National Center for Biotechnology Information: U.S. National Library of Medicine: National Institutes of Health, WebMD, Everyday Health
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Is the age-old saying “laughter is the best medicine” a valid theory? While laughter cannot cure disease, research shows that it does offer several mental and physical health benefits.
Benefits of laughter
Six short- and long-term benefits of laughter include the following:
- Pain reduction
Laughter releases endorphins (the body’s natural pain relievers) in the brain. Studies show that the need for pain medication decreases after watching a funny movie.
- Tension release
Laughter stimulates circulation and encourages muscle relaxation, both of which can reduce the physical effects of stress and tension.
- Better sleep
Watching a funny video clip or reading something humorous before bedtime promotes relaxation and induces healthy sleep. It can be especially helpful for individuals who have trouble sleeping due to chronic pain.
- Immune system benefits
Stress can weaken the immune system. Laughter can reduce stress. In addition, laughing regularly may raise levels of infection-fighting antibodies and strengthen immune cells.
- Blood sugar levels
Laughing may reduce blood sugar levels. This is an important tip for individuals with diabetes as laughing may help promote healthy blood sugar levels.
- Mental health
Laughter contributes to mental well-being. Humor and laughter can reduce stress and increase positive thinking. It can even help reduce agitation in individuals with dementia.
Adding more laughter to life
Almost everyone would welcome more laughter in their life. Five ways to add more laughter to life include the following:
- Surround yourself with comedy.
Keeping funny books, comic strips, and jokes easily accessible around the home can lead to laughter on a more regular basis. Going to a comedy club or funny movie can also generate a lot of laughter.
- Spend time with funny friends and family members.
Individuals should surround themselves with people who make them laugh. Sharing funny stories and jokes is beneficial.
- Practice laughter yoga.
Laughter yoga uses breathing techniques and movement to create laughter. Many yoga studios and groups offer laughter yoga sessions.
- Maintain a humor journal.
Similar to a gratitude journal, a humor journal involves writing down three funny things that happened each day. This simple practice can reprogram the brain to see more humor in everyday life.
- Take a laugh break.
While working or tackling a list of chores, it can be helpful to take a laugh break. Taking a break for five to 15 minutes to watch a funny video clip or read humorous material helps improve mood.