The Science of Woo: Laughter

kermit the frog on a couch laughing to reinforce the idea that laughter is a powerful recovery tool in substance abuse recovery

The Science of Woo: Laughter

Before I went to sleep last night, I laughed so hard tears were rolling down my cheeks. When I woke up this morning, my sides hurt. The same thing happened yesterday. This is a special and delightful weekend for the Recovery Therapist. My daughter graduated from college yesterday. That is, of course, one of my proudest moments to date.

a picture of my daughter at her graduation to reinforce the idea that family and reinforce the idea that laughter is a powerful recovery tool in substance abuse recovery

The event is also the reason my family has been together since Thursday, gathering from various states and parts of Texas, and traveling together to Texas Hill Country. The defining characteristic of this adventure has been laughter and has inspired this week’s installment of the “Science of Woo.”

I have been aware of the phrase “laughter is the best medicine” for as long as I can remember. I tried to find the origin of the phrase for proper sourcing (I am, after all, a High School English Teacher among other things). I was unable to find it, but the idea of laughter as medicine has ancient roots, including being written into the Christian Bible in Proverbs 17: “a merry heart is like medicine.”

Laughter is one of the tools I suggest to my clients in recovery use. It is a powerful tool, positively benefiting and proactively addressing issues known to be challenges as persons in recovery accumulate days, weeks, and months of sobriety.

I will offer a summary list of the benefits below, but I wanted to take some time to discuss some of the benefits specifically as they relate to recovery from a substance use disorder.

The Benefits of Laughter In Recovery

  • Laughter acts like a natural anti-anxiety and antidepressant – It’s well established that persons who suffer with both substance use disorder and a mental illness such as anxiety or depression need to treat all issues simultaneously or the symptoms of the mental health issues will be a constant stress on the person, and quite possibly a stress leading to relapse.
  • Laughter helps with physical pain – addressing physical pain (acute or chronic) is a challenge for persons in recovery; there can be risks in some pharmacological pain reduction options. Making choices that address pain without substances reduce this risk and reduce the chances of the substance use disorder being triggered and developed by a chemical synergy in the brain.
  • Laughter helps relationships – most people in recovery have had some damage to relationships. Even my clients, who are usually high functioning alcoholics and high functioning addicts have experienced some relational impact. Laughter can help heal those relationships.
  • Laughter is synergistic with other scientifically based recovery tools – “Humor is a powerful and effective way to heal resentments, disagreements, and hurts.” [1] You can read about the Science of Forgiveness here. And in another post in the Science of Woo series here.
  • Laughter allows us to “lighten up” – It’s common for my readers to not only be persons in or considering recovery but also adult children of alcoholics. It’s known that adult children of alcoholics take themselves very seriously and struggle to “let go” and have fun.[2] Learning to lighten up is a skill that allows for increased health in body, brain, and relationships.
  • Laughter helps with stress – Poorly managed stress is a known, serious, and common risk factor in terms of relapse. A recovery toolbox needs to have several tools that help stress.

a picture of my family reinforce the idea that laughter is a powerful recovery tool in substance abuse recovery

The Benefits of Laughter For Everyone

Below is a summary of some of the benefits of laughter, followed by some suggestions for introducing more laughter into your life.

Physical Benefits:

  • Improves your immune system[3],[4]
  • Mitigates the harmful effects of stress[5], [6]
  • Laughter is good for cardiac health[7]
  • It mimics exercise in the body[8]
  • Laughter reduces pain[9]
  • It reduces inflammation[10]

Mental Health Benefits – aka Brain Health

  • Improves mood[11]
  • Laughter can reduce anxiety[12], [13]
  • Laughter acts as an antidepressant[14], [15]
  • Assists with mental clarity; reduces brain fog
  • Reduces memory loss[16]

Relationship and Personal Interaction Benefits:

  • Strengthens relationships[17]
  • Creates resiliency and buffer against hard times[18], [19]


Ideas to Laugh More:

  • Watch a funny movie
  • Watch a sitcom
  • Watch a funny YouTube
  • Find a favorite comedian
  • Invite friends, peers in recovery, co-workers out to a comedy club
  • Read the comics
  • Capture funny lines or jokes – in a journal or Pinterest
  • Learn to laugh at yourself
  • Seek out funny people
  • Share a good joke or a funny story
  • Learn something new: dance, painting, car repair…
  • Look at your bookstore’s humor section
  • Friend or follow funny people on social media
  • Host or attend a game night
  • Play with a pet
  • Hang out with children
  • Allow yourself to do something silly

As for me, I’m off to enjoy the rest of the time while family is visiting. 



24618 Kingsland Blvd 2nd Floor, Room 8
Katy, TX 77494
On the left hand side of the CLS building
(281) 740-7563

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