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Laughter May Be the Best Medicine


We’ve all heard the phrase “laughter is the best medicine.” Well, it turns out, it might be true. Laughing, smiling, and finding joy is good for your mental health.

Laughter can help you stay mentally healthy and produce positive physical and emotional changes in the body, including strengthening your immune system, boosting your mood, reducing tension, easing pain, and minimizing stress.

The Healing Benefits of Laughter

We know that laughing makes us feel good in the moment, but laughing on a regular basis also has beneficial, long-term psychological effects. Some health care professionals have even prescribed more laughter as a way to improve overall well-being because it is natural, free, and easy to reap the benefits.

In a practice called “Laughter Yoga,” master trainer Alexa Drubay helps people find joy by laughing and smiling on a regular basis — even when there isn’t anything funny to laugh at. Her practice, located in Media, Pennsylvania, is based on stress-reduction principles developed in India nearly 30 years ago by Dr. Madan Kataria. Laughter yoga focuses on mindfulness, intentional laughing, and breathing techniques that connect you to your body in ways that create a sense of joy and well-being.

“When we laugh, we are accessing the power of our diaphragm, which allows us to draw more oxygen into our body,” explains Drubay. “More oxygen means more circulation into our hearts and brain to help access those euphoric feelings. When we choose to laugh for longer, we also engage cellular renewal, and over time, we receive a boost of happy hormones to the brain. Feel-good hormones like dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin increase and we can feel lighter, brighter, more confident, less anxious, and less depressed.”

What’s So Funny?

Often when we think of laughter, we think of a joyful reaction we share with others. Regardless of whether it’s sparked by a funny observation, a joke, or a good mood, laughing typically creates positive interactions among people. But when we’re alone or feeling down, tapping into those positive feelings can be more challenging.

The good news is there’s a theory of laughter called the “motion creates emotion theory” (MCET), which proposes that the body doesn’t know the difference between laughing in response to something humorous and deliberate laughing. Someone who intentionally plans their laughter can get the same physical, emotional, and mental benefits as they would from spontaneously laughing at something funny. Essentially, laughing for the sake of laughing can change your mood.

“Incorporating laughter into your daily routine is a great way to make sure you keep your spirits up. Just like drinking eight glasses of water a day or exercising is good for your daily routine, so is laughing. It’s easy to laugh when things are going great, but to develop the tools to laugh when things are hard, that’s when you can really see the results and feel how daily laughter can make life feel more joyful and hopeful,” says Drubay.

While you should always take your mental and physical health seriously with appropriate medical treatment, finding opportunities to laugh is a great way to help yourself through tough times.

“When something hard happens,” says Drubay, “I know I have two choices. I can either be really frustrated and angry, or I can take a deep breath, laugh, and figure out how to move on. When I choose to laugh, life just feels better.”

For more information about mental health, self-care strategies, and where to find help, visit ibx.com/knowyourmind.



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