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Is Laughter the Best Medicine?

Dr Sreedevi Yadavalli

“A clown is like an aspirin, only he works twice as fast.”                              – Groucho Marx

While we know for sure that if people can get more laughter in their lives they are a lot better off, whether they are healthier too has been a subject for much research and debate.

The act of laughing is likened to a mild workout by those who believe in the beneficial effects of laughter. 10-15 minutes of laughter burns about 50 calories, stretches the muscles of our face and body, raises our pulse and blood pressure, and sends more oxygen to our tissues. Other medical studies indicate that laughter boosts levels of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, and suppresses levels of epinephrine, the stress hormone.

But as healing as it may be, laughter is often viewed with suspicion in adulthood, for it isn’t always appropriate to indulge in laughter without adequate provocation. This is the reason that several enthusiasts subscribe to laughter club memberships in order to begin their day with a good dose of communal guffawing that will last them through the day’s travails.

While science may consider laughter therapy a new field, spiritual teachers and comedians have known for centuries that laughing can be an antidote for several illnesses. For some, the business of laughter is serious business indeed, as it is for standup comedians. For others, it is an act of social binding. Who wouldn’t enjoy an evening of fun and laughter with family and friends? The effects of such bonhomie often linger long after, instilling a strong feel-good factor that begs repetition.

So, even while we don’t know for sure that laughter helps people feel better, it certainly isn’t hurting. We enjoy laughing. Isn’t that reason enough to laugh? We don’t really need a prescription for that.

And as to the debate about laughter being the best medicine, well, while we may have studies that tell us that we are likely to be less sick if we laugh more, we also know that people who are healthy, have more to laugh about.

Any which way we look at it, we ought to laugh more in our lives, which is one good reason to have occasions like the All Fools’ Day on April 1st.


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