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Laugh Your Way to Health!

By Richard Harvey, Ph.D.

Have you ever heard that "Laughter is the best medicine"? Bet you have! That saying has been widely repeated on television, in the newspapers, in books, and in people's conversations for many years. It seems to have become common knowledge that laughter is good for your health. It certainly feels good to laugh, and most people notice that their mood improves after seeing a funny movie, reading a funny book, or hearing some amusing jokes or stories.

It is true that laughter is good for your health. Scientific studies have shown that enjoying things that are funny reduces stress, tension, and anxiety, improves mood, decreases pain, raises self-esteem, increases hope and energy, and improves creativity and the ability to solve problems. It also makes a person more attractive to others and strengthens relationships between people. We know that having good relationships with others is good for your health as well, so there you have a double benefit! Although not fully scientifically confirmed, there is some evidence that it may help healing, improve resistance to disease, and improve heart health. So now there is an excuse for taking time out to laugh and have a good time.

Given that laughing is good for you, what can you do to get some laughs? First, decide you are going to bring more humor into your life, and then actually do some things to make that happen. You can look for funny jokes on the Internet. There are lots of websites with hundreds of jokes available, and you can easily spend hours reading the jokes on these sites. Enjoy!

You could also go to your local library and ask the librarian where to find some humorous books. There are bound to be hundreds to choose from. Libraries also carry videotapes or DVDs of funny movies you can watch at home. Video stores also carry a huge number of such DVDs for rent. The newspaper always has a comics section in which at least a few of the comic strips may tickle your funny bone. There are numerous sitcoms or other funny shows on television every day, including lots of old reruns.

Being with other people who enjoy humorous stories or who are lighthearted and see the humor in everyday situations will "lighten your load" as well. If you have a story or something funny to share, go ahead and do so when the opportunity is there. Laughter is contagious, so take advantage of it.

It is often recommended that we "not take ourselves so seriously." That is good advice. Adding more humor to our life helps us put the difficulties we experience in our everyday lives in perspective and can greatly reduce the stress we feel.

Sometimes people have trouble feeling like laughing because of their bad mood. Being exposed to something funny will often make the bad mood disappear very quickly. Besides reading or watching something funny, another way to improve your mood is to "fake it 'til you make it." Even if you are grumpy, just pretend and act like you are in a good mood. Before long, smiling at people and acting friendly and lighthearted begins to make you actually feel that way. Remember, happiness can be just a few laughs away!

Learn more

Reading List: Therapeutic Humor and Healing (Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor, Humor Resources)

Humor, Laughter and Health (Helpguide.org)

Humor and Laughter may Influence Health (Oxford Journals)

Updated/Reviewed: March 31, 2009