Nowadays, in the conditions of time pressure and heavy workload, people become very receptive to stress, which negatively affects the quality of individuals’ lives. It is well known that when people are constantly stressed, eventually it might turn into depression, a more serious state, when a person loses a thirst for life, becomes apathetic and indifferent to everything. Fortunately, there is a method of treating stress and depression in medicine called laughter therapy.
Laughter as a Therapy for Treatment Health Issues
The concept of Laughter
Laughter therapy is truly unique because it allows treating both mental and physical health issues without using any medication. Laughter, which is used as the main tool of this therapy, is often considered as “a reaction to mirth, that triggers a physiological response of autonomic nervous system, which prepares the body for vigorous activity” (Martin and Ford 177). The concept that laughter has positive health benefits has been existed since biblical times and is actively supported by psychologists, psychiatrists, scholars, and medical workers (Roscoe 1438). There are numerous types of laughter, including spontaneous, simulated, induced, stimulated, and pathological, depending on the reasons causing it. It can be triggered unintentionally by external factors, such as a reaction to a funny story or, to physical stimulation as tickling. It also can be caused by the consumption of certain substances such as alcohol or drugs or can be intentional resulting from no reasons. Not all of the types of laughter are used as a treatment therapy, but some of them are widely applied in medicine.
Physical Impact of Laughter Therapy
The Professor of the College of Medicine at the University of South Florida, Lori Roscoe, in her article “Sometimes Laughter is the Best Medicine” brings a lot of evidence of a positive impact of laughter therapy, such as reducing muscle tension and pain or improving immune system function. She especially emphasizes the impact of the treatment of her neighbor, an 82-year old woman, who experienced some health issues related to her heartbeat (1438). A group of Japanese researchers evaluated the associations between the frequency of daily laughter with heart disease and concluded that heart diseases among those who never laughed prevailed (Hayashi, et al. 546). Another researcher, Byong-Hyon Han, in his book Therapy of Social Medicine, points out that “through laughter movement, heartbeat is increased, and the number of breaths taken changes, which are ways to strengthen our heart functions (229). Another example of laughter therapy can be using “laughing gas” as a means of decreasing the level of stress for maternity and childbirth process in medicine. Therefore, laughter is a very significant element of physiotherapy.
The Impact of Laughter Therapy on Mental Health
As it was aforementioned, apart from natural physiological responses, laughter triggers positive psychological reactions in individuals. Byong-Hyon Han supports this idea and explains that “voluntary or involuntary, laughter can be used to maintain, recover, or prevent physical, psychological, social, mental, and spiritual functions” (229). Indeed, the therapeutic value of laughter is extremely helpful for those who have mental issues, stress, depression, or other psychological problems. In addition, laughter helps people to be in a good mood, which affects the process of socializing with other individuals positively and productively. As a result of the therapy, people show better performance at work, strengthen their relationships with family members and friends, because laughter serves as a positive communication signal (Martin and Ford 178). Therefore, the therapeutic value of laughter is very high for both mental and physical health.
Laughter and Stress
Unfortunately, in modern society, the level of stress that is experienced by individuals is very high. Being unable to deal with psychological pressure on their own, sometimes people have to ask for external help to bring back joy and pleasure to their lives. It is worth mentioning, however, that some people do not believe in the positive outcome of any medical therapies, and turn to consumption of alcohol or other non-healthy substances. As it was mentioned above, these substances may cause laughter, but it has only a short-term effect. When the influence of substances is over, one can feel even worse both physically and mentally. Therefore, it is highly recommended by all the therapists and physicians of the world to ask for external help when people feel that they cannot deal with their problems, and life does not seem joyful anymore. There are a lot of therapy groups and hot phone lines for people who need psychological help, or just want to talk to someone about their problems.
Even though there is a lot of evidence that laughter is a very common and useful therapy for those who have health issues, some people still prefer to never believe in it and do nothing to improve their health conditions. Meanwhile, it is necessary to notice, that the therapy of laughter does not have any side effects, it is free to try, and it does not require having any special equipment to use it. Numerous researches proved the positive effect of laughter on mental and physical health, which allowed the therapy to be recognized as a valid form of treatment stress and caused the emergence of various laughter therapy groups and clubs across the world.
Han, Byong-Hyon. Therapy of Social Medicine. Springer, 2016.
Hayashi, Kei, Kawachi, Ichiro, Ohira, Katsunori, et al. “Laughter is the Best Medicine? A Cross-Sectional Study of Cardiovascular Disease Among Older Japanese Adults.” Journal of Epidemiology, vol. 26, no. 10, 2016, pp. 546 – 552.
Martin, Rod and Ford, Thomas. The Psychology of Humor: An Integrative Approach. Elsevier Inc., 2018.
Roscoe, Lori. “Sometimes Laughter is the Best Medicine.” Health Communication, vol. 32, no. 11, 2017, pp. 1438 – 1440.