Laughter Really Is Good Medicine For Health – Health
Sharon Danzger admits to having been a little skeptical when a member of her
women’s business networking group extolled the health benefits of laughing on
purpose. When the woman offered to teach the group to laugh when nothing was
funny—no jokes told or comedy movie screened “I was hesitant,” Danzger says.
After all, the group was made up of people who didn’t know each other very well.
Some men were going to attend the laughter session, too. How could they all just
start laughing together for no reason?
A good laugh, like a good cry, has long been thought to be the right medicine at
certain moments. Now scientists are exploring how regular laughing can do more
than just put a smile on your face.
“After laughing, you have a relaxation response (in your body). Everything goes
down—heart rate, blood pressure, your muscles relax,” says Mary Bennett, PhD,
APRN, whose research has investigated how humor and laughter affect physical and
Studies show that laughter can: lower inflammation levels in people
with rheumatoid arthritis; improve levels of good (HDL) cholesterol and reduce
inflammation in diabetics with high blood pressure and high cholesterol; decrease
stress and pain; and expand blood vessels and increase healthy blood flow.
“We’re starting to document that this (laughter’s positive influence on health) isn’t
just an old wives’ tale,” says Bennett, who is director of the Western Kentucky
University School of Nursing in Bowling Green, Kentucky. “It does seem to make a
All together now
Danzger’s curiosity about using laughter for better health finally won out. She
decided to attend the session.
“Everyone has stress in their lives,” says Danzger, who has four children under age
12 and runs a professional organizing business in Tenafly, NJ. “I don’t think we set
aside time to laugh.”
On your own
Learning to laugh with a group is often easier, but Young contends that you can
benefit from laughing by yourself for 15 minutes a day. Here’s the laughter exercise
1. Give 3 big, noisy sighs as you inhale through your nose and exhale through your
2. Stretch gently. Bring your shoulders to your ears; then lower gently. Rotate feet and
elbows; turn your head from side to side—gently.
3. Take a few deep abdominal breaths and release slowly.
4. Holding your hands under your belly, make a laughing “ho-ho-ho.” Make sure the
sound comes from your core (you’ll feel it in your hands when you’re doing it right).
Repeat 3 groups of 3, several times.
5. Change the sound to “ha-ha-ha” and repeat as above.
6. Change the sound to “hee-hee-hee” and repeat as above.
7. Put all 3 sounds together—”ho-ho-ho, ha-ha-ha, hee-hee-hee”—and repeat for 3
rounds, continuing until you develop a rhythm.
8. After the final round, break into your own natural laughter. Continue for a few
minutes. If it becomes difficult, stop and go back to step #3 and start the laughing
The exercise may feel contrived at first, but your normal laugh will come, Young says.
She’s seen it work with the stressed-out people she teaches.
“We have gotten ourselves so over scheduled and overwhelmed that we forget to be
like children. We forget to give ourselves permission to be happy, to smile,” she says.