Laughter Really Is the Best Medicine: Research Finds



Laughter Really Is the Best Medicine: Research Finds


In the realm of complementary and integrative medicine, we have long known the power of laughter and humour.  However, these are increasingly being recognised as a potent tool for enhancing overall wellbeing within the realms of conventional medical settings too.

A groundbreaking research study conducted by the University of Warwick, led by Professor Dr. Stephanie Schnurr and Yanyan Li from the Department for Applied Linguistics, sheds light on the remarkable properties of laughter and humour that can positively impact our lives.

The findings from their research demonstrate that incorporating laughter and humour into our daily routines can alleviate worry, diminish feelings of isolation, and instil a sense of control over our mental and emotional states. Laughter acts as a natural pressure valve, releasing stress and promoting a positive atmosphere. Dr. Stephanie Schnurr highlights the importance of laughter, stating, "Laughter is an important channel to express feelings, show appreciation, and create a positive atmosphere. Similarly, by embracing humour, individuals can find solace and resilience in the face of adversity."


So, how exactly can laughter and humour benefit our wellbeing within both complementary and conventional medical settings? Here are five ways:


  1. Helps us look on the bright side: Laughter and humour serve as incredibly effective tools for providing a mental break from life's challenges. They allow us to adopt a more light-hearted viewpoint towards our circumstances, reminding ourselves and those around us that the situation may not be as dire as it initially seems. Laughing at disagreements and troubles among colleagues, for instance, helps overcome these issues and fosters a more productive and collaborative working environment.
  2. Take back control: Laughter empowers us, transforming us from feeling like helpless victims to individuals in charge of our situations. Embracing the power of humour enables us to navigate challenges with confidence and serves as a valuable outlet for emotional expression, promoting overall mental and emotional wellbeing. Laughing at and making fun of our outsider status in a work team is one example of how humour can empower us.
  3. Release stress and tension: Humour, especially when used with irony and sarcasm, plays a crucial role as a release valve, enabling us to effectively relieve stress. By embracing the power of laughter, we find a much-needed outlet to lighten the weight of everyday challenges. Engaging in humorous exchanges allows us to temporarily detach from the seriousness of life and work, offering a momentary respite and a fresh perspective.
  4. Change our perspective: Humour is a powerful tool that challenges and changes the way we think about issues that impact our wellbeing. In the medical context, humour is often used to put patients at ease and tackle difficult or sensitive conversations, such as discussing unhealthy lifestyles or the lack of engagement with prevention and treatment plans. By creating a new version of reality that is easier to live in, humour offers a less intimidating and fearful environment.
  5. Bring people together: Laughing and having a sense of humour can help build positive relationships and foster a sense of togetherness. In the workplace, this is particularly valuable, as it promotes good rapport and signals belonging. Laughing with colleagues, rather than at them, demonstrates understanding and appreciation, making both parties feel better and happier.


Yanyan Li, a PhD student in Applied Linguistics at the University of Warwick, emphasises the significance of sharing a laugh, stating, "Sharing a laugh is an excellent way to display affiliation and togetherness. Especially in a workplace context where expectations and pressures are often high, humour and laughter are useful tools to improve wellbeing and make our own—and our colleagues'—lives a little more enjoyable."

As we celebrate World WellBeing Week, it is essential to recognize and embrace the power of laughter and humour in enhancing our overall wellbeing. Integrating laughter and humour into our complementary and integrative medicine practices can contribute to a more positive, resilient, and collaborative environment for both practitioners and patients. So, let's harness the healing power of laughter and bring joy, lightness, and connection into our lives. After all, laughter really is the best medicine.



Further reading:

Below are the research papers that the information above is based on. 

Van De Mieroop, Dorien, Schnurr, Stephanie, 2018. Candidates' humour and the construction of co-membership in job interviewsLanguage & Communication: an interdisciplinary journal, 61, pp. 35-45

Chimbwete-Phiri, Rachel, Schnurr, Stephanie, 2017. Negotiating knowledge and creating solidarity: Humour in antenatal counselling sessions at a rural hospital in MalawiLingua, 197, pp. 68-82

Zayts, Olga, Schnurr, Stephanie, 2016. Laughter as a 'serious business' : clients' laughter in prenatal screening for Down?s syndrome. In Bell, Nancy (ed.), Multiple Perspectives on Language Play, Berlin, Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 119-142

Choi, Seongsook, Schnurr, Stephanie, 2016. Enacting and negotiating power relations through teasing in distributed leadership constellationsPragmatics & Society, 7 (3), pp. 482-502

Choi, Seongsook, Schnurr, Stephanie, 2014. Exploring distributed leadership : solving disagreements and negotiating consensus in a 'leaderless' team. Discourse Studies, 16 (1), pp. 3-24

Schnurr, Stephanie, 2008. Surviving in a man's world with a sense of humour: an analysis of women leaders' use of humour at workLeadership, Vol.4 (No.3), pp. 299-319

Zayts, Olga, Schnurr, Stephanie, 2011. Laughter as medical providers' resource : negotiating informed choice in prenatal genetic counselingResearch on Language and Social Interaction, Vol.44 (No.1), pp. 1-20

Research papers: In the workplace context: Schnurr, Stephanie, 2008. Leadership discourse at work: interactions of humour, gender and workplace culture. Basingstoke, U.K, Palgrave Macmillan Ltd



About Professor Dr Stephanie Schnurr:

Dr Stephanie Schnurr is a Professor in the Department for Applied Linguistics at the University of Warwick. With a keen interest in the functions of humour and laughter, Dr Schnurr's research explores their impact on communication, wellbeing, and social dynamics in the workplace. Her work contributes to the growing body of knowledge on humour studies, offering valuable insights into its role in the workplace and medical contexts.


About Yanyan Li 

Yanyan Li is a PhD student in the Department for Applied Linguistics at the University of Warwick. Interested in relationship work, Yanyan explores how laughter and shared laughter function in relationship building and management in interactions of different contexts. Her work strives to make contributions to the knowledge of relationship work as an interactional accomplishment in everyday life.

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