If a friend of yours plays a hilarious joke that made you laugh so loud, you should thank them, especially if you were sad or feeling down about something. It turns out that your friend is doing you a favor because humor has been proven to maintain or improve one’s mental health. Thus, the birth of humor therapy.
John Thurman, M.Div., M.A., LPCC said “Humor, laughter, and joy have a powerful effect on health and well-being. It alleviates tension and stress, boosts the mood, raises creativity and provides a great, drug-free energy boost.”
Laughing stimulates the body’s good chemicals or endorphins, which is why laughter helps relieve tension, stress, and worry. This is why humor and laughter are powerful tools for decreasing depression and anxiety symptoms.
The Health And Humor Connection
The use of laughter as a form of medicine was popularized first by Mr. Norman Cousins. At 50, he suffered from a condition called ankylosing spondylitis and his doctors stated that there was very little chance of him recovering from the condition. But Cousins did not lose hope. Later on, he noticed that when he was doing something that he liked doing, the pain he felt was lesser. So he regularly watched episodes of his favorite Marx Brothers shows. Amazingly, Cousins continued to live on for 20 more years since the day of his diagnosis.
From that time on, a lot of studies were done to confirm the positive effects and the pain-relieving benefits of laughter. Other studies also showed that laughter can indeed boost one’s immune system and can produce relaxation. It also reduces tension and relaxes the muscles for up to almost an hour. And because laughter tremendously impacts the body, it has quite a powerful impact on one’s mind.
What Humor Does For One’s Mental Health
Below is a list of the most commonly seen benefits of laughter on one’s mental health.
- It lowers stress levels, primarily because of the lowered cortisol levels when one smiles, laughs, or adds some humor to a conversation. It is a known fact that cortisol is a stress hormone, so the lower it is in our body, the better for our mental well-being.
- It produces good endorphins, resulting in an improved mood and rejuvenation.
- When you’re talking to someone with an abundant sense of humor, it can help, especially when you’re having trouble feeling hopeful and happy. Humor is a medicine that can cure sadness.
- It counteracts anxiety and depression symptoms. It also enables a person to be more expressive of his emotions.
- It adds life to one’s years!
According to Grace Malonai, PhD, LPCC, DCC, “Highly sensitive people are more likely to be self-reflective and think about the consequences of their actions.”
Humor And Laughter As Therapy
Laughing is very useful for one’s mental health. Because of this, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals found means to combine it with therapy, which led to the creation of the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor. This association of psychologists strives to promote and encourage the use of laughter and humor in therapeutic settings to help treat or pacify severe mental health disorders. Moreover, another group, Stand Up For Mental Health, hires stand-up comedians to help hasten the recovery of mentally ill patients. Some of these stand-up comedians are asked to perform in universities and conferences to promote awareness about mental health problems.
Laughter Strengthens Relationships
In almost all instances, we laugh more when our friends and other loved ones try to make us laugh. Research reveals that people laugh most when they are with their circle of regular friends with whom they are comfortable with. In fact, they laugh 30 times more when they are with other people. This is such good news because then laughter strengthens our relationship with others, and as a result, enhances our mental and emotional health.
Apart from the benefits mentioned above, laughter also fixes broken friendships and helps pacify arguments and misunderstandings. Also, when we are talking with someone, and we’re laughing with them at the same time, our walls are down, and we become less serious about life. We are more open to listening and accepting other people’s points of view. When we are not so strung and all serious, we tend to relax as well.
A study performed by Robert Levenson at Berkeley, California involved couples whom he instructed to discuss what they didn’t like about each other. During the discussion, most couples were laughing and even making faces. The outcome was that they felt much better after the experiment, and the couples reported that they think their relationships were much improved.
Levenson also concluded that laughing with your partner, or another person for that matter, resulted in a phenomenon known as a “micro-moment of positive connection,” a term created by psychology researcher Barbara Fredrickson. This means that we feel happier inside when we share laughs with others.
According to John Harrison, LPCC, “The truth is that because we are constantly learning and evolving as individuals within our relationships, there is a never-ending learning and growing process taking place.”