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Mental Health Center

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Humor Therapy - Topic Overview

What is humor therapy?

Humor therapy (sometimes called therapeutic humor) uses the power of smiles and laughter to aid healing. Humor therapy helps you find ways to make yourself (or others) smile and laugh more. When you think of humor therapy, picture clowns in the children's ward of a hospital cheering up sick children. Some hospitals now have humor carts that provide funny materials for people of any age. Many nurses have learned the value of providing a good laugh to those they care for.

Scientists have been researching the relation between the mind and the body, especially in connection with the body's ability to heal (a field called psychoneuroimmunology). Laughter appears to change brain chemistry and may boost the immune system.

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Humor may allow a person to feel in control of a situation and make it seem more manageable. It allows people to release fears, anger, and stress, all of which can harm the body over time. Humor improves the quality of life.

What is humor therapy used for?

Anyone can use humor therapy, either preventively or as part of treatment for any disease. People commonly use it in the treatment of long-term (chronic) diseases, especially those that are made worse by stress (such as heart disease and asthma). Chronic diseases have a negative effect on mood and attitude, which can make the disease worse. Humor therapy helps reduce the negative effects of feeling unhealthy, out of control, afraid, or helpless, which are common problems for those with cancer or chronic diseases.

Humor therapy is also valuable as a preventive measure for the caregivers of people with chronic diseases. Caregivers are at high risk of becoming sick themselves, and humor therapy can help release the stress that comes from being a caregiver. Caregivers and those they care for can practice humor therapy together, and they both are likely to have better health as a result.

Is humor therapy safe?

Humor therapy is completely safe. Your doctor is likely to approve of any efforts you make to use humor therapy, even if he or she is not aware of specific medical benefits that may result. Because it is inexpensive, risk-free, and readily available, there is little reason not to try practicing humor therapy.

Always tell your doctor if you are using an alternative therapy or if you are thinking about combining an alternative therapy with your conventional medical treatment. It may not be safe to forgo your conventional medical treatment and rely only on an alternative therapy.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: November 14, 2014
    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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