Mind-Body Health

Lighten Up: The Healing Power of Laughter

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The healing system of Ayurveda teaches us that nourishing our five senses enlivens our health and well-being. I have found that it’s just as important to cultivate our sixth sense . . . our sense of humor.

We’ve all found ourselves facing difficult circumstances, mired in worry. When a good friend calls and has us laughing at ourselves, we’re reminded that there is more than one way to view a situation.

The very experience of laughter shifts our perspective and opens us to new possibilities. We feel internally tickled as we make a connection between the predictable way of looking at a situation and an offbeat way.

Laughter allows us to temporarily step outside our space- and time-bound state and touch the field of awareness that is boundless and eternal. The American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote, “Humor is a prelude to faith and laughter is the beginning of prayer.”

Laughter as Medicine

From the scientific perspective, laughter is an elegant mind-body phenomenon that reduces the production of stress hormones, boosts the immune system. Researchers in Japan found that people with rheumatoid arthritis who watched “rakugo” or comic storytelling experienced a significant decrease in their pain and stress hormone levels as well as an increase in two immune-enhancing chemicals. Humor can decrease anxiety, soften anger, lighten depression, and increase our pain tolerance.

Of course, discussing the value of laughter is about as fulfilling as talking about eating a delicious meal or making love. The benefit is not in the description but in the experience, so I encourage you to let yourself get carried away with laughter. Look for humor in life and give yourself permission to laugh out loud when something tickles your funny bone. When I was first diagnosed with a brain tumor, I asked people to post their favorite jokes and funny stories. The collection has been growing, and I invite you to take a humor break there right now and whenever you need to “lighten up.”

Here are a few more suggestions:

  • Make funny faces with your family and friends.
  • Watch comedy films by the Marx Brothers.
  • Visit a park and watch children and dogs playing.
  • Read joke books.
  • Spend time with fun, playful people. Laughter is contagious!
  • Share your embarrassing stories.
  • Host a game night with friends.
  • Share your favorite joke
  • Blow bubbles.
  • Play a practical joke on a friend (who has a sense of humor).
  • Twirl a hula hoop.
  • Try Laughter Yoga.
  • Start a pillow fight.
  • Join or visit a laughter club.

Be creative and give yourself permission to commit acts of silliness, irresponsibility, and lightheartedness. Remember that you don’t have to be in a good mood all the time – you just need at least one good belly laugh every day.
With love,
David