Tohoku J. Exp. Med., 2016 July, 239(3)

Review

Therapeutic Benefits of Laughter in Mental Health: A Theoretical Review

JONGEUN YIM1

1Department of Physical Therapy, Sahmyook University, Seoul, Republic of Korea

In modern society, fierce competition and socioeconomic interaction stress the quality of life, causing a negative influence on a person's mental health. Laughter is a positive sensation, and seems to be a useful and healthy way to overcome stress. Laughter therapy is a kind of cognitive-behavioral therapies that could make physical, psychological, and social relationships healthy, ultimately improving the quality of life. Laughter therapy, as a non-pharmacological, alternative treatment, has a positive effect on the mental health and the immune system. In addition, laughter therapy does not require specialized preparations, such as suitable facilities and equipment, and it is easily accessible and acceptable. For these reasons, the medical community has taken notice and attempted to include laughter therapy to more traditional therapies. Decreasing stress-making hormones found in the blood, laughter can mitigate the effects of stress. Laughter decreases serum levels of cortisol, epinephrine, growth hormone, and 3,4-dihydrophenylacetic acid (a major dopamine catabolite), indicating a reversal of the stress response. Depression is a disease, where neurotransmitters in the brain, such as norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin, are reduced, and there is something wrong in the mood control circuit of the brain. Laughter can alter dopamine and serotonin activity. Furthermore, endorphins secreted by laughter can help when people are uncomfortable or in a depressed mood. Laughter therapy is a noninvasive and non-pharmacological alternative treatment for stress and depression, representative cases that have a negative influence on mental health. In conclusion, laughter therapy is effective and scientifically supported as a single or adjuvant therapy.

Key words —— alternative treatment; depression; laughter; mental health; stress

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Tohoku J. Exp. Med., 2016, 239, 243-249

Correspondence: JongEun Yim, DSc., Department of Physical Therapy, Sahmyook University, Hwarangro 815, Nowon-gu, Seoul 139-742, Republic of Korea.

e-mail: jeyim@syu.ac.kr