“The most wasted of all days is one without laughter," says the poet e.e. cummings.
Gelotology (from the Greek root “gelos” meaning “to laugh”) is the scientific study of laughter.
Laughter has been shown to have quantifiable physiological and psychological benefits in both preventative and therapeutic medicine. Physiological benefits associated with daily laughter and humor include improved learning and memory, respiration, circulation, immunity, endorphin production, and decreasing stress hormones. Psychological benefits include reducing anxiety, stress, depression, enhancing creative thinking and problem solving skills; increasing energy, providing a sense of empowerment and control (see the sources below).
Convinced? The next step is to consciously plan laughter into your daily life. Here are some ways to start, based on three types of laughter:
- Spontaneous laughter: This laughter is triggered by humor, playing, clowning and emotionally contagious settings. Watch a comedy, read funny jokes (http://jokes.cc.com/; pick the category that suits you), get together with old friends and just act silly.
- Simulated laughter: This laughter is elicited through specific exercises that are offered in therapeutic laughing classes. Consider joining laughter yoga classes (http://www.laughteryoga.org/english).
- Stimulated laughter: This laughter is typically generated by physical contact and sensory stimulation such as tickling, hugs and massages. Nobody is too old for horseplay.
- Finally, learn the lingo: This will make you more familiar with and aware of the world of laughter.
Now that you know the lingo, use it as a healing tool … and reap its health benefits!
1. Mora-Ripoll R. Laughter techniques for therapeutic use in medicine. OA Alternative Medicine; 1(3):25; 2013
2. Mora-Ripoll R. The therapeutic value of laughter in medicine. Alternative Therapies, 16 (6): 56 – 62; 2010
3. Butler, B. Laughter: the best medicine. Oregon Library association, 11 (1), 2005.
4. Berk, R. The active ingredients in humor: psycho physiological benefits and risks for older adults. Educational Gerontology, 27: 323-339; 2001
— By Mohga Elabbadi, Phd, ND, resident at Bastyr Center for Natural Health