Laughter Is The Best Medicine

Mental Health

When we get sick or feel unwell, we typically first think of using medicine as a way to get better. When we think of medicine, our thinking all too often turns to tablets and “magic pills”. 

But the reality is there aren’t pills that fix everything and some pills have side effects; more importantly, there are many other interventions or therapies that can provide positive benefits that could and should be given more consideration. 

One definition of “medicine” is “the science or practice of the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease”. As you can see, this makes no mention of the specifics of HOW disease will be treated or prevented. 

In historical terms, it’s only been relatively recently that the treatments we use have been dominated by tablets and pills. In days gone by, many weird and wonderful methods were used, including pills and potions, but also a range of other tricks and tools. Now I’m not suggesting in any way we should turn away from modern medicine; which in many ways has proven very effective for many diseases. But it is worth noting that non-pharmacological approaches can and often do prove very useful, especially when it comes to prevention, and many of these are within our easy reach. 

Healthy diet, exercise and good sleep, for example, are just a few of the simplest and most effective forms of good medicine we could all use more of. If we attended more to these three cornerstones of healthy living, there’s no doubt we’d live better lives with less illness. 

Similarly, laughter has often been referred to as “the best medicine”; and this is not a joke! 

Research has shown that laugher helps us connect better with others, boosting the quality of our important relationships; reduces blood pressure; alleviates stress and other unpleasant emotions such as depression; boosts our immune system; provides benefits to our cardiovascular system; relieves pain; and even burns calories! 

Further, the world-renowned Mayo Clinic suggests more laughter is just what the doctor ordered (or should order more of). In a review article from earlier this year, in addition to those benefits listed above, they also claim that laugher positively stimulates many organs, leads to the release of “stress hormones”, and aids with muscle tension. Over the longer term it’s been associated with higher levels of personal satisfaction and happiness. 

How, then, given its many obvious benefits, can we bring more laughter in to our lives? 

To begin with, reflect on the fact that laughter and humour can be learned. Like many other aspects of life and personality, some people will find this easier than others and ultimately be “better” than others. But we can all learn to be funnier and find more funny moments in life; it’s not that different to any other skill, and practice definitely makes better. 

Practice the following for more laugher and medicine and better health.

  • Actively bring humour in to your life and keep it front of mind. Place funny photos or jokes or images in places you’ll see them often, such as your desk or on the screen saver of your phone or computer
  • If necessary, force yourself to laugh and the laughter will become real. This is the basis of “laughter yoga”; and you may well find a laughter yoga club in your local community (most of which are free!) 
  • Spend time with people who laugh and/or who make you laugh. Some friends or colleagues will just have a knack for doing this and they’re the ones you might like to make more time to hang out with 
  • Take advantage of the many wonderful, free resources available on the internet. You Tube is full of hilarious videos and bookshops and libraries will also have books of jokes that will bring on a good giggle 

To conclude, however, remember what’s NOT funny. Good humour shouldn’t be at the expense of others. So make sure you’re not laughing AT people or that the humour isn’t racist, sexist or discriminatory. Some people might think this is getting to serious or “politically correct” but there are many, many ways to have a good laugh that won’t be considered offensive by others. Accordingly, enjoy and make sure others are having fun too. 

Dr Happy

Please note: Dr Happy's blog is general advice only. For further information on this topic, please consult your healthcare professional.

Category:Mental Health

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