“A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything”, an old Irish proverb that rings true for most people. Laughing is an infectious expression of happiness that can catch us at any time and is one of our few instincts that we can’t really control (flashbacks of trying to stop the giggles in school come to mind).
Although what we laugh at and how we do it is quite a personal thing, there have been hundreds of pieces of research done into laughter. The psychological and physiological study of laughter even has its own name – Gelotology.
There’s an abundance of positive effects that laughing can have on our health and well-being and there’s a reason why most people name a good sense of humour as their most desired trait in a partner. Sharing laughter with others can help strengthen relationships and promotes bonding and teamwork within groups. Doctors and therapists are also increasingly recommending laughter therapy as a treatment for depression and stress, as it releases endorphins, and the results have been really promising.
A study in 2009 in Korea tested the effects of laughter therapy on depression, anxiety and stress levels in breast cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy.
It found that those who received laughter therapy for two weeks had much-reduced levels of stress and depression than those who hadn’t received the treatment. A similar study was conducted in Japan on a group of elderly people, and the results were similar too.
We all know that laughing makes us feel good but it turns out it can really be of benefit to those with deeper underlying issues too.
As well as having a positive effect on emotions, having a good laugh can actually alleviate physical pain too. A study in Florida reported that a group of orthopaedic surgery patients who were shown funny videos requested fewer pain meds than patients who were shown dramas.
Various other studies showed subjects being able to tolerate higher levels of discomfort while being made laugh.
For something so primal and embedded in all of our personalities, there’s a surprising amount of science behind the laughs we have every day! Getting the giggles is good for you so if you’re stressed out with study, exams and assignments right now, take a break and watch something funny (Bridesmaids is a personal favourite).