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Laughter as an intervention to promote well-being - Irene Hatzipapas

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“A merry heart does good like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.” Proverbs 17:22 (NKJB) 

Laughter as an essential part of the healing process, is based on the premise that laughter is a primary cathartic trigger enabling the release of previously unexpressed emotions. When we laugh, we are releasing painful feelings which have been repressed over a long period of time.

No matter how immeasurable the pain was, the body will keep releasing pain cathartically until there is no longer a need. Research conducted by Berk examined the effects of laughter on neuroendocrine hormones that are involved in classical stress responses. The results concluded that joyful laughter modifies or reduces some of the neuroendocrine and hormone levels that are associated with stress.

During the formative years, children are conditioned to laugh when it is socially acceptable, impacting the spontaneity of laughter in the later years. As adults, we tend to feel uncomfortable and fear losing control when exposed to laughter, crying, or anger expressions. However, losing control of our emotions cathartically, allows us to regain control of our life through flexible, creative and caring means which promotes wellbeing.

The benefits of laughter:

  1. Positive mental and spiritual impacts
  2. Combats the effects of stress and mental distress.
  3. Develops an affinity towards positive emotions
  4. It helps in undoing the effects of negative emotions and increasing psychological resilience and personal resources.
  5. Positive affective experiences contribute to and have a long-lasting effect on personal growth and development.
  6. Contributes to the management of physical pain through the relaxation of the muscles and increase of oxygen intake.
  7. Increases heart rate and arouses the circulatory system, therefore giving one a general sense of well-being.

Therefore, the need to maintain the ability to take things playfully becomes crucial and requires reversing earlier conditioning and reconnecting into play. In line with this way of thinking, developing this natural resource is possibly the most effective and powerful therapeutic intervention

'We don’t laugh because we are happy, we are happy because we laugh.' William James