Everyone has heard the the old phrase, “Laughter is the best medicine.” It turns out humor and laughter has many benefits for individuals with chronic conditions. The physiological and emotional benefits of a good laugh are well documented. Who hasn’t felt better after a good laugh? Let’s take a look at Humor Therapy and how Recreation Therapists can use it to improve their programming.
What is Humor Therapy?
Simply put, Humor Therapy uses humor to relieve the physical and emotional issues of participants. Using humor alongl with conventional medical treatments can be an effective way to improve the quality of life for your participants.
This type of therapy takes on many forms. Clowns and superheroes visiting children in hospitals. Movies and recordings to get participants laughing. Games, books, portable humor carts, and visiting volunteer groups are other common Humor Therapy tools.
Humor Therapy can be used by just about anyone to help a variety of issues. Caregivers can also benefit from humor therapy by using laughter to deal with stressful situations and work environments.
What are the benefits of Humor Therapy?
Laughter improves the quality of life for participants. Think of the people you know that are easy to laugh or always have a funny joke to tell. Instead of focusing on the negative and constantly complaining, these individuals take an active role in changing their mindset and adding more laughter to their lives.
Some benefits of Humor Therapy:
- Lowering stress and stress hormones in the body
- Helping release fears, anger, and anxiety
- Boosting the immune system
- Improving mood and outlook on life
- Helping a person feel more in control of their life
- Helping create a connection with others
- Laughing releases endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers.
- Laughing also increases breathing, oxygen use, and stimulates the respiratory and circulatory system.
At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities. –Jean Houston
Humor Therapy Activity Ideas
Thinking about incorporating humor into your recreation programming? Many of the interventions are relatively inexpensive, risk free, and readily available. Here are a few activity ideas to get you started.
Set up an Improv Night. Give each of your participants an opportunity to get onstage and share their favorite jokes. Before the event, run a few groups where participants could create their own jokes or learn more about the fundamentals of stand-up comedy. Even if the jokes are cheesy and the delivery is poor, there will still be a lot of laughs.
Act out scenes from your participants’ favorite TV shows or movies. Have the participants talk about their favorite comedies and what makes them funny. Then have them pick a few scenes they could act out and improvise. Adapt the skits to fit your participants’ needs and situations.
Have a group where each participant talks about the last time they laughed out loud. Sharing funny stories will certainly get the whole group laughing.
Try doing Mad Libs with a group. Mad Libs is a game where participants choose a certain type of word (e.g. noun, adjective, adverb, etc.) and then those words are filled into a premade story. Oftentimes the stories are so absurd you have to laugh.
Consider getting the laughs going with a Charades game. Adapt it to a leisure theme. Not only will they be using humor, they could also work on their leisure education.
Encourage your participants to start a Laugh Diary. Each day have them write one or two things that made them laugh. Then, after a week or so, have them share their funniest moments with the group. Journaling like this will also help them find the brighter side of life.
Make Group Comics. Set up an activity where a small group develops a comic strip. Let the group brainstorm ideas and share laughs. This is also a great team building activity to encourage communication, decision-making, creative expression, and group collaboration.
Set up a Joke Board in your facility. Have staff, visitors, and participants contribute to the board with jokes, funny pictures, or a funny story. Everyone in the facility will get an opportunity to brighten their day.
Try Laughter Yoga. This is a practice blending deep breathing, easy stretches, and self-generated laughter. There are a few websites that will train you to teach this type of yoga. In addition, YouTube has several videos showing easy laughter yoga exercises to try.
A Word of Caution
As you know, there are many different types of humor out there. You want to make sure the humor you use with your participants is appropriate and therapeutic. Humor should never be used to belittle or insult. You want to make sure everyone is laughing with each other and not at someone’s faults, race, gender, or ethnicity.
Adding humor to your recreation programming is a great way to improve the quality of life for your participants. Use some of the Humor Therapy activity ideas as a starting point to help your participants laugh and heal.
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