The Effects of Magic

Effects of Magic and Laughter



In the military, stress happens. But too much stress can have negative effects on performance, safety and well-being. During deployment, it is especially important to be ready with good stress management techniques.

Many studies have shown both the short-term and long-term effects on soldiers caused by stress and hyper-vigilance during deployment.

In most individuals, the right hemisphere of our brain is the location where our creativity and sensory perception lies. It is where we process emotion, insight, intuition, facial recognition, and body language. As a protective defense when feeling threated or stressed, the limbic system signals to the right hemisphere of our brains to remain on alert for any stimuli, sign or threat. The need for soldiers during deployment to remain constantly alert for threats can lead to a semi-permanent state of hyper-vigilance.

Studies show that the long-term state of hyper-vigilance experienced by soldiers can lead to depression, anger, and PTSD. It is necessary for soldiers to occasionally be able to relax this state of hyper vigilance to help avoid these long term effects.

Humor can be a powerful stress reliever. In fact, Laughter is unquestionably the universal intervention for calming the hypervigilant right-brain (Mobbs, Greicius, Abdel-Azim, Menon, & Reiss, 2003).

Laughter also reduces the level of stress hormones like Cortisol (termed “the stress hormone”), epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) and dopac, a dopamine catabolite. In fact, in 2006 researchers found that simply anticipating a mirthful laughter experience reduces the levels of all three stress hormones (39, 70 and 38 percent, respectively). Chronically released high stress hormones affect not only a soldier’s psychological well-being but can also weaken the immune system. The same study showed that laughter, and even the anticipation of laughter, also increased the levels of health-enhancing hormones, like endorphins.

Magic, and the sense of wonder it creates taps into the same psychological systems and chemical responses. Magic, and comedy magic in particular, can have a profound impact on the psychological and even physical well-being of deployed soldiers. And because of the effects shown in the 2006 study, these benefits are received not only from the performance itself, but also during the anticipation leading up to the event!


  1. Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense. (2010). VA/DoD clinical Practice guideline for management of post-traumatic stress. Washington, DC: Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense.

  2. Mobbs, D., Greicius, M. D., Abdel-Azim, E., Menon, V., & Reiss, A. L. (2003, December). Humor modulates the mesolimbic reward centers. Neuron, 40, 1041-1048.

  1. American Physiological Society. “Anticipating A Laugh Reduces Our Stress Hormones, Study Shows.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 April 2008. <>.

  2. Wilkins J, et al. Humor theories and the physiological benefits of laughter. Holistic Nursing Practice. 2009;23:349.

  3. Seaward BL. Comic relief: The healing power of humor. In: Essentials of Managing Stress. 4th ed. Burlington, Mass.: Jones & Bartlett Learning; 2017.

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