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Laughter As a Healing Force

December 2, 2008 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

Welcome to my first blog entry. Let’s get this show on the road!

There was a recent review in the journal Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (try saying that ten times fast!) that provides a scientific overview of the benefits of laughing regularly. Laughter and science? You betcha.

So, what are some of the documented medical benefits of “laughter therapy”?

Laughter as a Healing Force1. Muscle Relaxation After a period of laughter, muscle relaxation has been reported to last up to 45 minutes. You laugh. Your muscles relax. It’s that simple.

2. Anxiety Relief – College students who listened to a humorous tape during a stressful experiment decreased their self-reported anxiety in a controlled study. And what’s more, those with the greatest sense of humor enjoyed the greatest anxiety-relieving effect.

3. Strengthening the Immune System – A group of subjects was given a funny movie to watch. After watching the comedic film, their blood was analyzed for certain stress-related markers. The researchers who conducted the study found that there was a significant drop in cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone that can cause your immune system to become compromised.

4. Funny Exercise – Laughter basically provokes the same physiological changes in our bodies that exercise does. You see, while we laugh, our heart rate rises, our breathing quickens and our oxygen intake increases. That’s a very similar reaction to what happens when we exercise.

The authors of this review conclude that the current research on laughter is encouraging and that more research should be conducted – to better understand how and under what circumstances laughter can be most beneficial. Until then, my advice is to have a good laugh whenever possible. And, beyond that, help someone else find that momentary burst of muscle-relaxing, anxiety-relieving, immune-system building “exercise” that’ll make you both feel better.

Link – Laughter and Health Outcomes

Thanks so much for dropping by. I hope you enjoyed my opening blog. And, I really hope you’ll visit again. I’m posting new content everyday. Don’t miss out!

Be well!


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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Mental Health

5 Comments & Updates to “Laughter As a Healing Force”

  1. Maria Lisa Says:

    It’s true… laughter & positive emotions release good endorphins…
    I also learned @ brain symposium a while back that there is a strong link to/with emotion and learning: emotion actually DRIVES learning; and, having FUN is essential!! lol??! you betcha back!

  2. JP Says:

    I agree completely with your first statement, Maria Lisa.

    Thanks for sharing your insight into the learning process as well. If I come across some related research, I’ll be sure to include it in a future blog.

    Be well!


  3. JP Says:

    Update 04/28/15:


    The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. April 2015, 21(4): 217-222.

    The Effects of Laughter Therapy on Mood State and Self-Esteem in Cancer Patients Undergoing Radiation Therapy: A Randomized Controlled Trial

    Background: To investigate whether laughter therapy lowers total mood disturbance scores and improves self-esteem scores in patients with cancer.

    Design/Setting: Randomized controlled trial in a radio-oncology outpatient setting.

    Patients: Sixty-two patients were enrolled and randomly assigned to the experimental group (n=33) or the wait list control group (n=29).

    Interventions: Three laughter therapy sessions lasting 60 minutes each.

    Outcome measures: Mood state and self-esteem.

    Results: The intention-to-treat analysis revealed a significant main effect of group: Experimental group participants reported a 14.12-point reduction in total mood disturbance, while the wait list control group showed a 1.21-point reduction (p=0.001). The per-protocol analysis showed a significant main effect of group: The experimental group reported a 18.86-point decrease in total mood disturbance, while controls showed a 0.19-point reduction (p<0.001). The self-esteem of experimental group was significantly greater than that of the wait list control group (p=0.044).

    Conclusions: These results indicate that laughter therapy can improve mood state and self-esteem and can be a beneficial, noninvasive intervention for patients with cancer in clinical settings.

    Be well!


  4. JP Says:

    Update 05/18/15:


    J Korean Acad Nurs. 2015 Apr;45(2):221-30.

    Effect and Path Analysis of Laughter Therapy on Serotonin, Depression and Quality of Life in Middle-aged Women.

    PURPOSE: This study was done to examine how laughter therapy impacts serotonin levels, QOL and depression in middle-aged women and to perform a path analysis for verification of the effects.

    METHODS: A quasi-experimental study employing a nonequivalent control group and pre-post design was conducted. Participants were 64 middle-aged women (control=14 and experimental=50 in 3 groups according to level of depression). The intervention was conducted five times a week for a period of 2 weeks and the data analysis was conducted using repeated measures ANOVA, ANCOVA and LISREL.

    RESULTS: Results showed that pre serotonin and QOL in women with severe depression were the lowest. Serotonin in the experimental groups increased after the 10th intervention (p=.006) and the rise was the highest in the group with severe depression (p=.001). Depression in all groups decreased after the 5th intervention (p=.022) and the biggest decline was observed in group with severe depression (p=.007). QOL of the moderate and severe groups increased after the 10th intervention (p=.049), and the increase rate was highest in group with severe depression (p<.006). Path analysis revealed that laughter therapy did not directly affect depression, but its effect was indirectly meditated through serotonin variation (p<.001). CONCLUSION: Results indicate that serotonin activation through laughter therapy can help middle-aged women by lessening depression and providing important grounds for depression control. Be well! JP

  5. JP Says:

    Update 05/31/15:


    Altern Ther Health Med. 2015 May;21(3):16-25.

    Humors Effect on Short-term Memory in Healthy and Diabetic Older Adults.

    Context • With aging, the detrimental effects of stress can impair a person’s ability to learn and sustain memory. Humor and its associated mirthful laughter can reduce stress by decreasing the hormone cortisol. Chronic release of cortisol can damage hippocampal neurons, leading to impairment of learning and memory.

    Objectives • The study intended to examine the effect of watching a humor video on short-term memory in older adults.

    Design • The research team designed a randomized, controlled trial.

    Setting • The study took place at Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, CA, USA. Participants • The study included 30 participants: 20 normal, healthy, older adults-11 males and 9 females-and 10 older adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM)-6 males and 4 females.

    Intervention • The study included 2 intervention groups of older adults who viewed humorous videos, a healthy group (humor group), aged 69.9 ± 3.7 y, and the diabetic group, aged 67.1 ± 3.8 y. Each participant selected 1 of 2 humorous videos that were 20 min in length, either a Red Skeleton comedy or a montage of America’s Funniest Home Videos. The control group, aged 68.7 ± 5.5 y, did not watch a humor video and sat in quiescence.

    Outcome Measures • A standardized, neuropsychological, memory-assessment tool, the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (RAVLT), was used to assess the following abilities: (1) learning, (2) recall, and (3) visual recognition. The testing occurred twice, once before (RAVLT1) and once after (RAVLT2) the humorous video for the humor and diabetic groups, and once before (RAVLT1) and once after (RAVLT2) the period of quiescence for the control group. At 5 time points, measurements of salivary cortisol were also obtained. The Kruskal-Wallis test was used to measure significance of the data based on the 3 groups.

    Results • In the humor, diabetic, and control groups, (1) learning ability improved by 38.5%, 33.4%, and 24.0%, respectively (P = .025); (2) delayed recall improved by 43.6%, 48.1%, and 20.3%, respectively (P = .064); and (3) visual recognition increased by 12.6%, 16.7%, and 8.3%, respectively (P = .321). For levels of salivary cortisol, the research team found significant and borderline decreases for the humor group between baseline and (1) post-RAVLT1 (P = .047), (2) postvideo (P = .046), and (3) post-RAVLT2 (P = .062). The diabetic group showed significant decreases between baseline and (1) post-RAVLT1 (P = .047), (2) postvideo (P = .025), and (3) post-RAVLT2 (P = .034). The study found no significant changes for the control group.

    Conclusion • The research findings supported potential clinical and rehabilitative benefits for humor that can be applied to whole-person wellness programs for older adults. The cognitive components-learning ability and delayed recall-become more challenging as individuals age and are essential to older adults for providing a high quality of life: mind, body, and spirit. Because older adults can experience age-related memory deficits, complementary, enjoyable, and beneficial humor therapies should be implemented for them.

    Be well!


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