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Healing Through Humor - Topic Overview

Laugh your way to better health

You're lying in bed with some kind of health problem, taking medicine and maybe getting some kind of treatment or therapy—and feeling pretty down. Or maybe you're taking care of someone who's ill, and it's wearing you out. Sometimes life can feel pretty overwhelming. This might seem like a crazy idea, but now's the time for you to laugh.

Think for a minute: Is there anything close by that might cheer you up? A TV show? A book? Your child dancing?

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Whatever you're doing right now, stop and find something that makes you laugh. It may feel like a solution that won't last long, but laughter can help you forget about your troubles and help your body heal. That's right. Laughter can help your body heal.

Your brain talks to your body

You probably already know that your brain is in charge of things like what you think about and your ability to walk, talk, breathe, and move. But did you know that your brain also produces chemicals that affect everything from how fast your heart beats to how well you fight off disease?

Thanks to something called the mind-body connection, the simple act of laughing can tell your brain to produce chemicals that:1

  • Lower your risk for heart attacks.
  • Increase your blood circulation.
  • Help your heart work better and pump more evenly.
  • Boost your body's immune system to help you fight off infection.
  • Increase your deep breathing, which relaxes your muscles, gives you more energy, and lowers your stress.
  • Help you make sense of your emotional experiences, improve your mood, and manage your feelings of pain and stress.

Scientific research backs this up: The more you laugh, the better you'll feel and the healthier you'll be. Give it a try.

Learn more ways to laugh

Laughter is one of those things, like getting exercise or watching what you eat, that you can do yourself. Here are a few ways to laugh more:

  • Ask your spouse, partner, or friends to help by telling you good jokes or bringing you funny movies.
  • Spend time with the world's leading experts on laughter: children.
  • Surround yourself with people and things that make you laugh—whoever or whatever they may be.
  • Surround yourself with humor: An Internet search for "stupid pet tricks" or "funniest home movies" will give you, as well as the people you care for or the people who care for you, plenty to laugh at.
  • Ask at your local library or bookstore for funny books, audio programs, or movies. Or subscribe to a free comedy podcast.

It's easy to think that the only things that can help your health are things that others do for you or to you—the medicines you take, the doctors you visit, the surgeries or operations you have. And these are all important. But laughter is effective treatment you can do for yourself. And you don't need a medical license to do it.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: May 21, 2013
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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