Laughter, A Great Idea!

BY: Neighbors’ Consejo|

Thinking of laughter as a therapeutic benefit is not a new concept. Although during the past decade it has taken great importance, since ancient times laughter is considered as a positive emotion. Then, what are the benefits of laughing for our health?

In the ancient Chinese empire, spaces were set up for people to gather to laugh as a method to balance health [1]. In other ancient cultures there were figures like the jester and the clowndoctor [2], a dressed and made-up sorcerer who cured sick warriors through laughter [3]. 

In ancient Greece, the philosophers Plato and Aristotle gave their first insights into laughter, concluding that only human beings could laugh [4]. For their part, Hippocrates and Galen thought that laughter was capable of improving people’s health through the balance of body humors and temperament [5].  

After the thirteenth century the perspective on laughter would improve, as some doctors began to consider it and use it as part of recovery after surgery [6]. Sometime later, the psychologist Freud, from his psychoanalytic orientation, suggested that humor and laughter were a way of freeing and relieving the body of negative energy [7].

Laughter is directly related to emotions. It has affective and expressive components, associated with both psychological and neurobiological changes that become visible in facial expressions, body movements and changes in the functioning of the body, especially in the cardiac, digestive, respiratory and muscular systems [8].

Moreover, laughter produces certain hormonal reactions in the brain such as the production of endorphins, which cause pleasure and relieve pain, and dopamine or the hormone of happiness, which generates a feeling of well-being in the body. It also activates the chest muscles that, when contracting, generate pressure in the lungs, thus producing sounds, shrieks or snoring from the rib cage that manifest the laughter of each person [9].

In addition, psychologist Rafael Aragón mentions other changes that occur in the body when laughing, for example: It inhibits the production of cortisol, which is known as the “stress hormone”, it strengthens the cardiovascular system since it improves blood flow, as well as strengthens the respiratory and immune systems and prevents infections and increases tolerance to pain. Other indications suggest that it would help with weight loss, improve the appearance of skin, prevent insomnia, as well as stimulate the imagination and improve memory [10].

Laughter then, is a very common positive emotion that gives us different sensations such as joy and allows us to replace negative thoughts and attitudes. A laugh can, at least, make us forget about worries, design more open and have flexible thoughts, thereby achieving greater well-being. Hence, it is increasingly common to find therapies based on positive techniques such as laughter, humor and happiness.

There is truth in that old saying:  “Laughter is the best medicine”.












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