Can Laughter Help Betrayal Trauma?

Woman and Dog Laughing
Woman and Dog Laughing

My mom used to say, “It’s no laughing matter, but it’s no matter if I laugh!” That was her way of always looking for the positive, even in the hardest parts of life. And very few things in life are harder than discovering the one you love has betrayed your trust. Betrayal trauma exerts a consequential negative force on one’s entire being, and often produces long-term damage to your health. And no matter how positive we are, betrayal trauma leaves us with very little to laugh about. But do you know that laughter really is good medicine, just as the old adage says? Even for a betrayed partner of a sex addict.

A quick Internet search turns up all kinds of good reasons to begin to use laughter as a medicine, especially in the wake of heartbreak following betrayal trauma. Here are a few of those reasons:

  •  Laughing relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes afterward.

  •  Laughing reduces stress hormones. By reducing the level of stress hormones, you’re simultaneously cutting anxiety and stress, and relieving their impact on your body. And the reduction of stress hormones may result in higher immune system performance, we’re told.

  •  Laughing produces a general sense of well-being. Laughter can increase your overall sense of well-being. Doctors have found that people who have a positive outlook on life tend to fight diseases better than people who tend to be more negative.

  •  Laughing triggers the release of endorphins. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. And because endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers, they can even temporarily relieve pain.

  •  Laughing boosts T-Cells. T-cells are specialized immune system cells just waiting in your body for activation. When you laugh, you activate T-cells that immediately begin to help you fight off sickness. Since trauma negatively impacts the immune system, we can literally help protect our bodies by finding something to laugh about!

  •  Laughing improves cardiac health. Laughter, we’re told, is a great cardio workout. Wow; who knew? Laughter gets your heart pumping and even burns some calories. Laughter lowers your blood pressure, and improves the function of blood vessels, which in turn increases blood flow, with the end result of better long-term cardiac health.

  •  Laughing even works your abs! As if the above results of laughter aren’t enough, getting better abs from belly laughs are the icing on the cake! As incredulous as it sounds, researches tell us that laughter can help you tone your abs. When you are laughing, the muscles in your stomach expand and contract, similar to when you intentionally exercise your abs. Now isn’t that something worth laughing about?

We know from experience that betrayal trauma is no laughing matter, but in light of the research, it will matter if we laugh. Laughter could literally help keep you healthy, in spite of betrayal. So I want to challenge us all: make laughter a daily habit. We talk a lot about being intentional in our efforts to create joy in our lives, but let’s add intentional, daily laughter to our healing regimen. My hope is that it will empower us to live fuller, richer, happier lives by laughing.

Laughter researchers: Dr. Lee Berk and Dr. Stanley Tan at the Loma Linda University in California.