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What Is Laughter Therapy?

M.C. Huguelet
Updated Feb 13, 2024
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Laughter therapy is the practice of deliberately releasing laughter to improve one’s physical and emotional well-being. It is believed that laughing can produce a number of physical and psychological benefits, and advocates of laughter therapy hold that it is useful both for those in the midst of a serious crisis and those facing everyday stresses. This type of therapy may involve both genuine and artificial laughter, and may be practiced in groups or alone. Those conducting laughter therapy sessions may face the challenges of finding exercises that all participants find humorous and getting timid individuals to participate.

Research suggests that laughter can produce a number of benefits for both the mind and the body. For instance, it can relieve stress, sadness, and fear, and can improve one’s attitude toward issues like unemployment or illness. Laughter may also provide a range of physical benefits in some individuals, such as improved blood pressure and digestion and diminished pain. Taking note of such potential health benefits, certain doctors and researchers began to develop the concept of laughter therapy in the late 20th century. This type of therapy can be used for those facing significant challenges, such as terminal illnesses, as well as those who simply want to improve their response to the stresses of everyday life.

The exact format of laughter therapy sessions can vary widely. They can consist of informal activities, such as watching a humorous movie or reading a silly book, or may take the shape of structured sessions in which participants perform a series of laughing exercises. A therapy session can involve just one participant or many.

Many researchers believe that artificial laughter can “trick” the brain into producing the same health benefits as genuine laughter. Consequently, during structured laughter therapy sessions, therapy leaders often ask participants to produce exaggerated laughing sounds. Although this artificial laughter may be beneficial on its own, many therapy leaders claim that the silliness of fake laughter exercises often leads to genuine laughter among participants.

Leaders of laughter therapy sessions may face a couple of obstacles as they attempt to engage therapy participants. First of all, from time to time they will likely find that an exercise that seems humorous to one participant is not funny to another one. Further, they may find it difficult to encourage timid therapy participants to let go of their inhibitions and join in exercises that might make them look silly.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
M.C. Huguelet
By M.C. Huguelet
Cate Huguelet, a Chicago-based freelance writer with a passion for storytelling, crafts engaging content for a wide range of publications, including WiseGeek. With degrees in Writing and English, she brings a unique perspective and a commitment to clean, precise copy that resonates with readers. Her ability to understand and connect with audiences makes her a valuable asset to any content creation team.
Discussion Comments
By Viranty — On Sep 01, 2014

Maybe it's just me, but I have never been able to "trick" my brain into laughing. However, that might be because I'm doing it to myself, and someone else isn't trying to make me laugh. Generally speaking, when we try to cause ourselves to have an emotion, it doesn't always work.

Taking all into consideration, it's because we know our own body, and it's prepared for anything we try to do to go against it. Whether it's through fear, physical harm, amusement, etc. As an example, have you ever noticed that when you tickle yourself, your body doesn't have much of a response, but when someone else does it, you have a reaction? Overall, it's hard to "trick" our body.

By Chmander — On Aug 31, 2014

I noticed how in the last paragraph of the article, it mentions that leaders of laughter therapy sessions can have trouble getting people to laugh, especially when others thought it was funny. One thing we need to remember is that everyone has a different sense of humor. Some are more prone to sarcastic humor and not easily amused, while others can find almost anything potentially amusing. Overall, though it depends from person to person, also remember to know their strengths and weaknesses, as that can help in the long run.

By RoyalSpyder — On Aug 30, 2014

While I have never gone through laughter therapy, I do know that seeing or hearing something amusing can really cheer someone up. For example, if someone is in a bad mood, and they watch one of their favorite comedies, by the time the movie has ended, they'll feel a lot better.

However, one thing we should remember is though laughter can be a good therapy, it's not always a "cure", so to speak. This is especially true in more serious situations. For example, if someone just received the news of a loss, watching something funny could cheer them up in the long run, but not in that moment, especially considering the weight of the situation. Regardless though, laughter is one of the best benefits anyone can ask for.

M.C. Huguelet
M.C. Huguelet
Cate Huguelet, a Chicago-based freelance writer with a passion for storytelling, crafts engaging content for a wide...
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