SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Oct. 10 marks World Mental Health Day, and at some point in our lives, most of us have heard the phrase, “Laughter is the best medicine.”
There’s no doubt about it, a good and hearty laugh shared with friends and loved ones can work wonders on a sour mood.
Studies have found that laughter has all kinds of positive impacts on a person’s well-being.
For instance, laughing decreases levels of stress-making hormones by altering dopamine and serotonin levels, which can benefit people suffering from depression. It also releases endorphins that can help a person who’s feeling low or depressed.
“If you’re talking about the benefits of laughter in terms of helping people in a difficult place to move beyond that difficult place, then yeah, it can be a really wonderful thing,” Dr. Edward Drohan, a clinical psychologist at Memorial Health said.
Drohan’s own daughter experienced the benefits of laughter on her wedding day, he said, the day that she was “sweating bullets” due to nerves.
He was due to walk her down the aisle when he had a less-than-ideal mishap with his wedding attire.
“I was wearing tails, and I had just come back from a situation where, unfortunately, the tails had gotten wet,” Drohan told News 3.
“I won’t tell you the circumstances under which they did, but she broke into one big laugh, which was like, ‘HA!’,” he said.
The sudden eruption of laughter startled the congregation, which turned around and looked at the two of them at the back of the church, where they quickly shut the door.
“[My daughter] said to me, ‘Oh Dad, thank you so much! That really made everything easier’,” Drohan recalled.
The therapeutic benefits of laughter on mental health have not gone unnoticed in the medical community.
In fact, “laughter therapy” is actually a thing.
This alternative, non-pharmacological form of treatment has been shown to have a positive impact on both mental health and a person’s immune system, according to research.
That’s why some medical professionals have made efforts to add laughter therapy to more traditional forms of therapy.
Comedy—which we all know is devoted to eliciting a response of laughter—is another way people have processed issues with mental health, says Brianne Halverson, one of the founders of Savannah’s Front Porch Improv comedy group.
“Not only does it probably send good energy into the world to be laughing with your friends, but also, it’s a way to tell your story, to make light of things,” Halverson told News 3.
She says improv in general works well for coping with social anxiety.
“It teaches you skills of how to not judge yourself, just put yourself out there and not wait to be judged, which I think can make a lot of people anxious,” Halverson said.
Front Porch Improv has partnered with Chatham County-based Prevent Suicide Today, and helped raise a few thousand dollars for the organization last year.
“People shared stories, and not feeling alone is a huge part of that,” she said.
“When you’re laughing with friends and family, you don’t feel so alone, so it can be really powerful.”