08-13 The power of humor – Laughter’s physiological effects on mental health

Posted in Behavioral Health, Humor, Mental Health

The power of humor - Laughter’s physiological effects on mental health

Laughter brightens moods and increases joy in daily life. Remaining completely serious in every moment can prove taxing on the mental state, so sit back and chuckle. Science says laughter helps people handle stress, anxiety and other problems well.

“Your sense of humor is one of the most powerful tools you have to make certain that your daily mood and emotional state support good health,” said Paul E. McGhee, Ph.D.

He is right, as laughter relaxes the whole body and releases tension up to 45 minutes after the event. Similar to exercise, laughter also stimulates endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good substance.

Indirect benefits include social attraction, as many people enjoy being around humorous figures. While masking the pain and unhappiness in front of others can feed into depression, balancing out the unhappiness with some levity could help with the misery in the short and long-run.

Many opportunities for laughter are available, such as spending more time with humorous people. Watching funny movies, television shows or going to a comedy club are opportunities for fun as well.

Researchers from California’s Loma Linda University decided to find solid evidence behind the phenomena and looked at healthy, elderly adults, measuring stress and short-term recall. The control group was asked to sit idly while other subjects consumed amusing media. The results were conclusive, finding the non-control group more relaxed and better with short-term memory compared to the control group.

“Older adults need to have a better quality of life. Incorporating time to laugh, through social interaction with friends, enjoying exercise in a group setting, or even watching 20 minutes of humor on TV daily, can enhance your learning ability and delayed recall,” said Loma Linda University researcher Gurinder S. Bains, Ph.D., who co-authored the study.

Dr. Bains believes it is essential for patients to engage in funny activities every day for overall physical and mental health, especially when entering the twilight years.

Releases of endorphins might help some people with depression and other mental illnesses cope with troubles in the short-term, but professional help is often necessary for more intense cases of mental disorders. In that case, the Depression Centers of California is a prime resource for finding mental health professionals understanding the importance of living a balanced lifestyle of laughter, sadness, happiness and more. To receive a referral right away, please call 855-678-0400.


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