How Laughter Can Heal
Julie Misener is a writer and political junkie with a passion for social justice.
Humour and healing – there’s growing recognition of the powerful connection between a belly laugh and recovery from trauma. Whether you’re dealing with the stress and trauma that victims and survivors of abuse commonly suffer or you want to support someone who is, laughter can make things better. In fact, even the anticipation of laughter can boost your mood and relieve anxiety.
Laughing releases endorphins, the feel-good hormones that make you feel happy. It relieves physical tension and stress and can help your muscles relax. Tenths of a second after you hear a punch line, a wave of electrical activity sweeps through your entire cortex, triggering positive physical changes in your brain. And it’s good for your heart because it increases oxygen in your blood and boosts circulation.
An Oxford University study found laughter helped subjects tolerate physical pain too. Participants watched comedy videos, neutral videos or videos meant to promote good feelings but not laughter, and then their pain tolerance was tested. Results showed that laughing increased pain resistance, whereas simply feeling good in a group setting did not.
Shared laughter also reinforces social connections. Finnish and British researchers found that laughter builds and maintains our bonds with others, according to Science Daily. This explains why the best icebreakers are funny. Laughing together makes you feel like you belong even if you’re with strangers. And there’s nothing that builds friendship more quickly than a shared joke or funny story.
Victims and survivors of abuse are often isolated or living with others who are similarly depressed and stressed. And survivors and victims are often reluctant to share their stories. Laughing together can lift moods, ease tension and help build trust and connection.
Whether you are suffering from trauma or you’d like to support someone who is, you can benefit from these five laughter-inducing activities:
- Watch a funny movie: Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin in All of Me; Planes, Trains and Automobiles; Vacation and The Big Lebowski are just a few.
- Google some giggles – everything from corny puns to longer jokes.
- Read the comics.
- Listen to contagious laughter – you won’t be able to resist!
- If you like games, try these funny board games for a laugh
- 5 Easy and Fun Ways to Celebrate World Laughter Day