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Good News: Laughter is actually being used as medicine

BY Alice Gawthrop

27th Oct 2022 Good News

Good News: Laughter is actually being used as medicine

Comedian Angie Belcher has teamed up with the NHS to create comedy courses that can be prescribed to people struggling with trauma and anxiety

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Laughter is the best medicine.” Comedy on Referral has taken that idea and run with it, using standup comedy to help treat people struggling with trauma and anxiety in partnership with the NHS.

Comedy on Referral

The idea stemmed from comedian Angie Belcher’s experiences teaching comedy at Bristol University. She found that students often told her how how much stronger and more resilient they were thanks to standup comedy.

Inspired, she teamed up with the NHS in Bristol to create a six-week comedy course for patients struggling with trauma in January 2022. Following the success of this initial course, Comedy on Referral won NHS funding to help men at risk of suicide in London. 

"Comedy doesn’t come from the happy, perfect moments of your life, but from our everyday struggles and major life events"

Belcher will work alongside psychologists and men who have experienced suicidal events to use comedy as a form of therapy. 

Talking to The Bristol Post, Belcher said, “Past traumas are perfect for comedy. Comedy doesn’t come from the happy, perfect moments of your life, but from our everyday struggles and major life events. People who’ve been through big life experiences such as bereavement and ill health often can’t wait to tell me their story, mostly because there’s always something weirdly funny about the situation.”

Why is laughter good for us?

Research has shown that laughter has positive psychological effects, such as decreasing levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and increasing endorphins. 

It can even have physiological benefits, although less research has been done in this area. Current research has linked laughter and humour with increased levels of pain tolerance as well as short-term cardiovascular benefits. More research is needed to corroborate these findings.

Nonetheless, the mental health benefits of regular laughter are widely accepted, and using comedy to treat mental health struggles could be a real breakthrough in the treatment of mental health. 

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