Help for depressionAs it turns out, the human brain is wired to respond positively to laughter and smiles, generating ‘feel-good’ chemicals and this can be of great help for depression. The wiring is so strong that the brain responds even when we smile at ourselves in the mirror or simulate laughing with enthusiasm. You can even stretch your mouth into a smile shape by using a chop stick or a pen across the mouth to pull back the corners.

There is a complex reciprocal interaction between the body and the mind and what happens in one reflects in the other. If you change the quality of your thoughts, you will feel a change in body behavior. Conversely, if you bring a change in your body behavior you will experience a change of your mental state. All physiological functions are connected. Stress or relax one and you will stress or relax them all. In the bigger picture: Stress or relax your body, and you will stress or relax your head.

When we smile for example, the brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that produces feelings of happiness. Interestingly enough, this effect works both ways. The release of dopamine when we feel happy causes us to smile, and the mere act of smiling causes the brain to release dopamine, which in turn makes us feel happy.

The counter-intuitive approach to depression help: Laugh!

Help with depressionThis is not just about dopamine. Laughter can be of great help with depression because it causes the body to release into the bloodstream high concentrations of different hormones and neuropeptides related to feelings of happiness, bonding, tolerance, generosity, compassion and unconditional love. Let’s call this a joy cocktail.

The presence of this joy cocktail precludes the production of other hormones and neuropeptides that are related to feelings of hatred, fear, violence, jealousy, aggression and the emotions associated with war and oppression. It is impossible to sustain feelings of hate and the desire to fight with someone with whom you are laughing unconditionally.

Give laugh therapy a try. You don’t have to feel good or be happy to laugh. When you change, the world around you changes. When you feel good, you are more likely to address the challenges you have to face constructively and with a positive attitude.

Why better moods = better health

It is said in the King James Bible “A merry heart does good like a medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)

This is still a modern medical statement. You may have heard the claim that the issue with many people is not what’s wrong with their body, but that they have a broken spirit. People usually don’t die of cancer, chronic ailments or other similar causes but of depression. Here is why:

We now know that the brain and immune system represent a single, integrated system of defense, and that our moods and emotions affect our health.

In 1985, research by neuropharmacologist Candace Pert revealed that neuropeptide-specific receptors are present on the cell walls of both the brain and the immune system. This showed their close association with emotions and suggested mechanisms through which emotions and immunology are deeply interdependent. Showing that the immune and endocrine systems are modulated not only by the brain but also by the central nervous system itself has had an impact on the understanding of emotions as well as of disease.

Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can impact the body by bringing more stress into the system and decreasing its immunity. In contrast, positive thoughts and emotions trigger neurochemical changes that reduce the immunosuppressive effects of stress.

This is why reliable and sustainable therapeutic approaches to laughter such as Laughter Wellness and Laughter Yoga are so important. It disrupts the cycle of negativity and promotes a happier mood state. This has a lot to do with the fact that dopamine (which floods into your system when you are positive) has two functions. Not only does it make you happier, it turns on all the learning centers in your brain, allowing you to adapt to the world in a different way.

helping with depression

Laughter versus group exercise program in elderly depressed women: a randomized controlled trial
Background: The objective of this study was to compare the effectiveness of Laughter Yoga and group exercise therapy in decreasing depression and increasing life satisfaction in older adult women of a cultural community of Tehran, Iran.

Methods: Seventy depressed old women who were members of a cultural community of Tehran were chosen by Geriatric depression scale (score>10). After completion of Life Satisfaction Scale pre-test and demographic questionnaire, subjects were randomized into three groups of laughter therapy, exercise therapy, and control. Subsequently, depression post-test and life satisfaction post-test were done for all three groups. The data were analyzed using analysis of covariance and Bonferroni’s correction.

Results: Sixty subjects completed the study. The analysis revealed a significant difference in decrease in depression scores of both Laughter Yoga and exercise therapy group in comparison to control group ( p<0.001 and p<0.01, respectively). There was no significant difference between Laughter Yoga and exercise therapy groups. The increase in life satisfaction of Laughter Yoga group showed a significant difference in comparison with control group ( p<0.001). No significant difference was found between exercise therapy and either control or Laughter Yoga group.

Conclusion: Our findings showed that Laughter Yoga is at least as effective as group exercise program in improvement of depression and life satisfaction of elderly depressed women. Copyright # 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Click here to read the research article

Helps with depression

Relevant studies

Here is a good place to start:

  • Feasibility of a group-based laughter yoga intervention as an adjunctive treatment for residual symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress in people with depression (Bressington et al., 2019): Found that laughter yoga intervention led to decreases in depression and improvements in mental health-related quality of life. Read more.
  • Humor, laughter, learning, and health! A brief review (Savage et al., 2017): Discussed the positive impact of laughter and humor on health, including reduced stress hormones and enhanced psychological well-being. Read more.
  • Therapeutic Benefits of Laughter in Mental Health: A Theoretical Review (Yim, 2016): Highlighted laughter therapy's positive effect on mental health and immune system, reducing stress hormones and influencing neurotransmitter activity. Read more.
  • [Effect and Path Analysis of Laughter Therapy on Serotonin, Depression, and Quality of Life in Middle-aged Women] (Cha & Hong, 2015): Demonstrated that laughter therapy significantly impacts serotonin levels, reducing depression and improving quality of life in middle-aged women. Read more.
  • Effect of laughter yoga on mood and heart rate variability in patients awaiting organ transplantation: a pilot study (Dolgoff-Kaspar et al., 2012): Indicated that laughter yoga may improve heart rate variability and certain mood aspects in patients awaiting organ transplantation. Read more.
  • Implementation of a manual-based training of humor abilities in patients with depression: A pilot study (Falkenberg et al., 2011): Demonstrated that humor training enhanced short-term mood improvement and humor coping abilities in patients with major depression. Read more.
  • [Laughter and depression: hypothesis of pathogenic and therapeutic correlation] (Fonzi et al., 2010): Explored the hypothesis that laughter can directly improve mood and counteract depressive symptoms by stimulating specific brain regions and normalizing neuroendocrine system dysfunctions. Read more.
  • Validation of laughter for diagnosis and evaluation of depression (Navarro et al., 2014): Suggested that laughter could be used as a diagnostic tool in the onset and evolution of depression, revealing underlying emotional and mood states. Read more.
  • Do Depressed Patients Lose Their Sense of Humor (Falkenberg et al., 2010): Studied the influence of depression on various aspects of humor abilities, finding that depressed patients' susceptibility to humorous material was unaffected. Read more.

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