Laughter: Nature’s Medicine for Family Relationships


Finding ways to laugh through the hard times builds resilience and relationships in a family. The effects of laughter are both immediate and lasting for people of all ages.

A few weekends ago I visited some of my husband’s family I had never met before to attend the funeral of his aunt. Emotions were still fresh from my husband’s mother passing away two years before, and now her twin had passed away from cancer at a relatively young age as well. It was a hard time. After the funeral, we stayed at another aunt’s home and spent the afternoon and evening after the funeral sitting around with relatives telling stories, catching up, laughing, and talking. As we sat there, the family reminisced about the funny quirks of the two sisters who had passed away:  family stories, puns, riddles- you name it. What a stark contrast was this scene from the funeral tears and heavy hearts. I was amazed at how this family used a thriving sense of humor to cope with a difficult time. Humor can be powerful.

Laughter is Medicine for the Body and Mind

  • Laughter releases stress-relieving hormones into the body and reduces tension.
  • Laughter reduces the chances of having depression. Laughing a lot releases endorphins and improves mood.
  • It helps with breathing, blood pressure, and heart rate, and reduces calories
  • Some research connects laughter and humor to strengthening immunity and the body’s ability to deal with pain.
  • Laughter can increase self-esteem and confidence, improve creativity and thinking skills, and helps you feel in control of a situation. Research on families and married couples show that those with stronger, happier relationships laugh more with each other.

How to Strengthen Your Family’s Funny Bone

“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”- Victor Borge

    • “Mutual respect, love, and trust allow family members to share and create humor” (Wilcox, “Humor in the Family”). Laugh at things that everyone finds funny. Jokes aimed at criticizing someone or to manipulate someone else are detrimental to the environment of the home.
  • Be willing to laugh at your own mistakes. Doing so will show your children an example of dealing with failings with a good attitude, compassion, and kindness. Teach them to not take themselves so seriously.
    • With your young children, learn to be spontaneous, playful, and silly. Collect funny books and movies. Teach them when jokes are funny and when they might hurt feelings and are not okay.
  • Families usually are aware of what other family members are sensitive about. When telling funny stories and making witty remarks, jabs at other family members can cause lasting pain, even if they pretend to laugh. Nurture a sense of trust by not sharing other’s personal things without permission.
  • Choose to see the humor in a situation. Life will inevitably get overwhelming at times. Sometimes it is a choice between responding with tears or with laughter. Laughter relieves tension and makes things psychologically more bearable.
  • Share memories of humorous moments. Keep a journal of funny things. These will be delightfully amusing to read over later. Family inside jokes and shared stories form powerful bonds.
  • Learn about the differences in sense of humor in your spouse and other family members. One joke that is dull to you, might throw someone else into fits of giggles.

“A marriage [or a family] without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs — jolted by every pebble in the road.”- Henry Ward Beecher

And for an added bonus- some of my favorite family jokes:

“If you have trouble getting your children’s attention, just sit down and look comfortable.”

A little girl asked her Mom, “Where do humans come from?” Her mom answered, “God made Adam and Eve and they had children and that’s who we all descend from.” A few days later the girl asked her dad the same question. Her dad answered, “Many years ago there were monkeys from which people evolved.” The confused girl returned to her mother and said, “Mom, how is it possible that you told me the people were created by God, and Dad said people evolved from monkeys?” Her mom answered, “Well, dear, it’s very simple: I told you about my side of the family, and your father told you about his.”

“I was watching the game at my parents’ home and I asked for something to eat. My dad said, “Go ahead and eat some of the peanuts in the bowl beside the chair. I ended up eating them all and as I was leaving I said that I was sorry and would replace them. That’s when dad said, “Ever since I lost my teeth, all I can do is suck the chocolate off them.”


Gavin, M. (Jun 2015), Encouraging your child’s sense of humor. Retrieved from:

Mayo Clinic Staff. (Apr. 21, 2016). Stress relief from laughter? It’s no joke. Healthy Lifestyle.  Retrieved from:

Schwartz, J. (2017). The gift is humor. In Healthy Communication. Retrieved from:

Wallen, D., 9 surprising benefits of laughter you need to know. Retrieved from:

Wilcox, B. Humor in the family. In Marriage and Families. Retrieved from:

Yim, J. (2016). Therapeutic Benefits of Laughter in Mental Health: A Theoretical Review. The Tohoku Journal Of Experimental Medicine239(3), 243-249. doi:10.1620/tjem.239.243.

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