Incorporating Laughter Therapy into Treatment

     As an occupational therapist I am always trying to find innovative treatment strategies to incorporate into OT sessions.  Many years ago I was introduced to the concept of “Laughter Therapy” when I worked at an inpatient neuro-care center and was inspired at this years BIAMI’s conference by something one of the guest speakers mentioned to revisit this type of therapeutic approach. 

     In doing research on the topic I learned that hospitals around the country are beginning to incorporate formal and informal laughter therapy programs into their therapeutic regimes secondary to the amazing outcomes they are having.  In countries such as India, laughing clubs, in which people gather in the early morning for the sole purpose of laughing, are becoming as popular as Rotary Clubs in the United States.

     In her book, Pulmonary Rehabilitation:  Guidelines to Success, Patty Wooten noted that the ability to laugh at a situation or problem gives us a feeling of superiority and power.  Humor and laughter can foster a positive and hopeful attitude.  We are much less likely to succumb to feelings of depression and helplessness, which are very common with brain injury, if we are able to laugh at what is troubling us.  When dealing with the many issues related to brain injury that are very serious in nature, humor can lighten the mood when dealing with some of these problems, and make it a little easier to handle for clients.  Laughter provides us with an opportunity for the release of those uncomfortable emotions which, if held inside, may create biochemical changes to the brain that are harmful to the body.  I was once told that emotional negativity can manifest itself into physical illness, which I firmly believe. 
     Scientific evidence on the effectiveness of humor as a therapy is now overwhelming.  For many years medical professionals have recognized that those clients who maintained a positive mental attitude and shared laughter responded much better to treatment and achieved many more of their goals. 
The following is a list of some of the many effects humor has on the human body:

  • Increased respiration
  • Increased circulation
  • Increased hormonal and digestive enzyme secretion
  • Many report a general sense of euphoria after vigorous laughter
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Pain reduction
  • Cardiac exercise (what a fun way to exercise! 😉 
  • Strengthens your immune system
  • Makes your cheeks sore J
  • Increases your intellectual performance
  • Boosts information retention
  • Reduces stress hormones

     Humor is a universal language.  It is a contagious emotion and a natural diversion.  Best of all it is FREE and has no known negative side effects.  Healthy, non-ridiculing and connecting laughter provides physiological, psychological and spiritual benefits you probably never realized or imagined.  I encourage everyone whether you are a client, therapist, doctor, or any professional to integrate more laughter into your life!  I know tomorrow I am going to wear a red nose to work and even if I get one person to laugh (even if it is at my expense) it will be well worth it!  We are born with the gift of laughter- it is being serious that we learn.  So, learn to laugh, and live, all over again! 
“The simple truth is that happy people generally don’t get sick!”
        -Bernie Siegel, M.D. 

This article was submitted by:  Debbie Loftus, MOT, OTR/L