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To Cope, Can Laughter Heal the Pain?

"The neurotic who learns to laugh at (her)himself may be on the way to self management, perhaps to cure." ~ Gordon W. Allport, founding figure of Personality Psychology

The notion of laughter as a coping or curing aid may be unthinkable during challenging moments such as obtaining a cancer diagnosis, hearing that a close family member just passed away or getting laid off of your job. Laughter is not easy to come by when you are stuck in bed fighting a chronic illness. Due to its health benefits, though, the notion of including laughter as a coping aid in your toolbox is worthwhile.

The 3-A Coping Framework components Acknowledge, Assess, Assist can be applied so you are empowered to monitor yourself with awareness. Acknowledge your circumstance; Assess the impact such as low mood and/or pain; Assist with strategies, such as laughter, to get you through during difficult times.

Benefits of Laughter: Physical Changes to Boost Mood and Relaxation

No joke, how seriously should we take the idiom that laughter is the best medicine? It is accessible, free with minimal to no side effects. It may not be the best medicine for curing your existing infection but it can assist in relieving tension, improving your mood and relieving pain. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter creates physical changes in your body such as:

  • enhancing your intake of oxygen-rich air

  • stimulating your heart, lungs and muscles

  • increasing endorphins, natural painkillers released by your brain

  • releasing serotonin, our natural anti-depressant

  • stimulate circulation and aid in muscle relaxation

Physical Benefits: Cardiovascular Health

The University of North Texas Health Science Centre reported that laughter is good for your whole health. They provided information from a study published in the National Institute of Medicine showing that adding laughter to daily life has positive effects on cardiovascular health. The various benefits mentioned include:

  • Improved Blood Flow: Laughter promotes vasodilation, the widening of blood vessels, which leads to improved blood flow. This enhanced circulation can benefit cardiovascular health by reducing the risk of hypertension and enhancing overall heart function.

  • Lower Blood Pressure: Studies have indicated that laughter can lead to temporary decreases in blood pressure. This effect is beneficial for those with hypertension or those at risk of developing high blood pressure-related cardiovascular conditions.

  • Enhanced Endothelial Function: Endothelial function refers to the ability of blood vessels to dilate and constrict. Laughter has been shown to improve endothelial function, which supports healthy blood vessel function and reduces the risk of atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular diseases.

The Benefits of Laughter Yoga

It has been noted that simulated or fake laughter is effective like genuine laughter. In entertainment, an audience of people laughing may be received better than the laugh track, canned laughter you often hear on sitcoms. Research has shown that simulated laughter - going through the motions of laughter - has the same health benefits as induced genuinely by a comical source. This is what laughter yoga, also known as hasya yoga is about.

Laughter yoga, founded by family physician Dr. Madan Kataria, uses intentional simulated laughter to provide the same or similar results obtained from spontaneous laughter. It involves a combination of movement and breathing exercises, enhancing intentional laughter. It is usually done in person or virtually in a group setting which promotes fun...and laughter.

Acknowledge, Assess, Assist with Laughter in Your Coping Toolbox.

Acknowledge when you are in the midst of tense and challenging circumstances. Assess the impact these circumstances have on you. Add laughter to your Assist coping strategies to alleviate, mitigate the impact. Next time you laugh, acknowledge, assess, assist that you are using a free and accessible resource to do something good for yourself - an act of self care.


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