A gut-wrenching paroxysm of hilarity, or laughter, is one of the most pleasurable and healing of human experiences.
Fortunately, life’s ironies and absurdities can even penetrate dark clouds of despair, and the paralysis of anxiety, to give those who are troubled the respite of a good laugh.
“Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion,” wrote Kurt Vonnegut, author. “I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.”
Good For What Ails Us
Laughter causes us to gulp oxygen, massages our vital organs, boosts blood flow, and relieves muscle tension—a tonic for whatever might be bugging us. Positive thoughts generated by humor release neuropeptides that diminish physical stress and its ill-effect on the immune system. Laughing also causes the body to manufacture natural painkillers and can disrupt the pain-spasm cycle experienced with certain muscle disorders.
“I know why we laugh. We laugh because it hurts, and it’s the only thing to make it stop hurting,” said author Robert S. Heinlein.
For those with high stress, or who have symptoms of depression or anxiety, laughter is a great coping mechanism. It rattles our lethargy or paralysis and helps us look at things from a fresh perspective, and maybe take ourself - and our distress - less seriously. “If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane,” is how the poet Robert Frost puts it.
The Flip Side of Weeping
Though laughter does not cure anxiety or depression, it helps keep symptoms from ruling our life.
“It’s not all bad. Heightened self-consciousness, apartness, an inability to join in, physical shame and self-loathing—they are not all bad. Those devils have been my angels,” writes Stephen Fry of his depression. “Without them I would never have disappeared into language, literature, the mind, laughter and all the mad intensities that made and unmade me.”
Laughter has been called cheap medicine, a cure for a multitude of ills, wine for one’s soul, an antidote for fear, carbonated holiness, the shortest distance between people , a stress cleanser, our most effective weapon, the sound of our soul dancing, and the flip side of weeping.
“Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps; for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are, and what they ought to be”
~ William Hazlitt.
Source: Mayo Clinic
You can also read this at PsyWeb