“Laughter is the best medicine.”
You’ve heard it. I’ve heard it. The whole world, irrespective of culture, religion or language has heard today’s quote. But what exactly does it mean besides the literal sense of it? And how accurate is it scientifically or biologically?
If we examine the origin of the quote, it’s estimated to be recorded for the first time around late 20th century. Long before that, however, there were several variations of the quote. Most agree that all versions of it probably stem from the traditional proverb, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.”
On paper, laughter does indeed have a lot of benefits. Lee Berk, DH-Sc, of the Loma Linda School of Medicine once conducted an experiment in which laughter proved to “reduce hormonal measures of sympathetic activation” or in laymen’s terms, hormones that aggravate stress.
Professor Rosemary Cogan, a PhD in psychology, once conducted a study at Texas Tech University in which students were undergoing a relaxation procedure. The study concluded that the ones who were given resources to laugh tolerated more discomfort than the ones who weren’t.
Over the years, however, many have been quick to criticize those kind of studies. They’ve pointed out that while laughter may prove to be somewhat beneficial physiologically, there’s very little evidence to suggest any significant difference psychologically, especially when it comes to mental health.
Rather, many with depression, have observed that laughter more or less acts as a band-aid rather than an actual cure. If you attend a comedy club or watch a sitcom, it provides a perfect distraction but remains just that; a distraction. Many people like myself who have been diagnosed with severe depression have even rigorously pushed forth the idea that if someone is having a depression episode, don’t try to “cheer them up” as that’ll make things worse.
So what’s the answer? Are all quotes, research, studies and experiments regarding laughter proven to be futile?
In my estimation, no. Laughter may not be a long-term solution to daily trials and tribulations of life. It may indeed just be a band-aid.
But isn’t that the first step to any improvement in health, physical or mental? If we cut ourselves, do we not put a band-aid over the wound to stop it from bleeding before any other step? We know pain medication is not a permanent cure. But do we still not pop an aspirin when we have a headache to at least temporarily make it go away before applying more meticulous methods?
Laughter may not be the best medicine out there. It may not cure any ailment. But it can indeed make us feel better. It can make the road to recovery just a trifle more pleasant if we understand the long-term purpose of it and utilize it accordingly.
No matter how efficacious or not, emotions in any human being need to be balanced. Too much of any emotion is never good. So even if it’s temporary, we need laughter just as much as we sometimes need a good cry. Speaking of, have you heard the story of the guy who walked into a bar? If not, you’re in for an array of humorous anecdotes!
How important is laughter in your life? Do you make a conscious effort to include it in small or large doses? If so, do you think it helps? If not, why do you think it won’t help? Share your thoughts and experiences by commenting below on our secure servers. And for this particular post, if you feel like it, share a joke or two as well.