When you think about possible treatments for drug and alcohol addiction, what comes to mind?
More than likely, you’re thinking about the affected person working with a therapist.
Individual counseling and group therapy are important components of many treatment plans. However, they aren’t the only elements that can make a difference in addiction recovery. Holistic treatments and self-care strategies can be very helpful in promoting a sustained recovery.
How Laughter Affects the Body
If you’ve ever heard the expression, “Laughter is the best medicine,” you may be surprised to learn it is based on some scientific facts.
Gelotologists, the scientists who study the physiological effects of laughter on the body, tell us that our physical response to humor causes a number of changes. Here’s what happens when someone lets go with a really good laugh:
- The response involves the entire body. The facial, pectoral, abdominal, and skeletal muscles contract and then relax, lowering muscle tension.
- Fifteen facial muscles go through this process during the first 10 seconds of laughter alone. People living with chronic pain report experiencing some symptom relief due to easing of muscle tenseness and spasms.
- Scientists theorize that laughter makes the body produce higher levels of endorphins, its “feel-good” chemicals. If the theory is proved correct, a good laugh produces the same feelings as eating chocolate, falling in love, watching a cute kitty video on the Internet, exercising, or having sex.
- Laughing lowers the amount of the stress hormone cortisol, which is responsible for regulating blood sugar, metabolism, and blood pressure.
- Having a good laugh may also give your immune system a boost. Research suggests a link between laughter and cells that are important for a healthy immune system.
- It also burns calories. Laugh for five minutes and you could burn up to 25 extra calories daily.
Laughter as Addiction Treatment: How it Helps
Now that you know how having a good laugh impacts the body physiologically, let’s look at how humor can help someone in treatment for drug or alcohol addiction.
It engages active listening and observational skills.
If someone wants to understand a joke, he needs to be able to follow the narrative from start to finish. Looking away or thinking about something else while the joke is being told will mean not being able to understand the punch line when the joke is finished.
Someone in recovery may need to practice their active listening, since one of the unfortunate byproducts of addiction is becoming focused on feeding the disease to the exclusion of all else. This type of activity allows for practicing the skill naturally.
It creates a sense of camaraderie with others.
Sharing an experience with other people where the group finds something amusing and several people are laughing together helps to create a bond between members. In that moment, they have found something they agree on.
Laughing together keeps participants focused on the moment.
While you may not necessarily think of laughter as a mindfulness activity, if you’re engaged in finding something amusing and having a full-on laugh about it, you’re not focused on anything in the past or the future. This is a good exercise for learning to live in the present.
Laughing is fun.
Often, people come into treatment for drug and alcohol addiction and they have forgotten how to enjoy themselves and have fun. The disease has stripped their ability to see the amusing side of life. Laughing makes them realize the joy that can be found in sober living.
Laughing supports a holistic recovery.
Obviously, you can’t cure substance abuse simply by joking around. However, humor can be one of the tools used to treat addiction. Residential treatment at Great Oaks Recovery provides individual and group counseling, family therapy, and a variety of holistic treatments designed to give you the skills you need for lasting sobriety.