Humor therapy, sometimes called laugh therapy, is the use of humor to achieve physical and emotional relief from pain and stress. Humor therapy is most often employed in conjunction with other treatments and therapies to help a patient cope with an illness. Long-term illnesses, such as cancer, create physical and emotional stress and many facilities utilize humor therapy to help improve a patient’s quality of life. Though there is no scientific evidence that humor therapy has medicinal benefits, it has been shown that laughter stimulates certain systems in the body and helps relieve stress.
The intent of humor therapy is to get patients to laugh and find humor in everyday life. Facilities implement humor therapy by creating an environment, such as a room or lounge, that is comfortable and where patients can go to experience humor. Some facilities employ stand up comedians or comical speakers, while others may also provide funny books, movies, and music. The purpose of humor therapy, regardless of implementation, is to get patients to laugh.
In many ways, humor therapy is similar to pet therapy in that neither is intended to provide medicinal benefits, but both stimulate the body to become relaxed and create positive emotions. The physical effects of laughter include increased oxygen levels, higher heart rate, and increased blood circulation. It is also believed that certain endorphins are released that can help relieve pain and stress.
The number of facilities that utilize humor therapy is growing all the time. Children’s hospitals and cancer treatment centers are the leading types of facilities to use laugh therapy. Research into the benefits of humor therapy continues to be conducted as many facilities report positive results from their programs. In the end, what is known for sure is that humor therapy provides additional opportunities for terminally ill patients to enjoy themselves and the result can be a reduction in pain and stress along with an increase in the quality of life.