Laughter really is good medicine. When was the last time you had a really good belly laugh? Laughter has been shown to not only be good for you but is contagious. Have you ever found yourself laughing with someone just because they were laughing? It was as if their laugh was infectious and despite not actually knowing what they were laughing about, your bout of unrestrained amusement left you feeling great! This is the basis of a form of therapy known as ‘Laughter Yoga’.
During a session of Laughter Yoga, which is held all over the country, a group of participants meet and literally engage in side-splitting, belly-burning laughter. The verdict from participants is ubiquitous, ‘….a strangely liberating and uplifting experience.’ Well, as it says in Proverbs 19:22, ‘A cheerful heart is good medicine.’
Studies have shown that laughter offers one of the most powerful and natural healing methods without any side effects. According to a recent study by cardiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, laughter, along with an active sense of humour, may help protect you against a heart attack. This study is the first to indicate that laughter may help prevent heart disease. They found that people with heart disease were 40 per cent less likely to laugh in a variety of situations compared to people of the same age without heart disease.
Furthermore, a group of professors from the University of California, Los Angeles, established the Humor Research Task Force to look into the effects of humour and laughter. Their research indicated that laughter can help:
- Reduce stress and elevate mood
- Foster instant relaxation
- Lower blood pressure
- Boost the immune system
- Improve brain functioning
- Protect the heart
- Connect you to others
- Increase your pain tolerance level
Laughter may also extend your life. A large study of 54, 0000 Norwegians, undertaken at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, showed that those who have a sense of humour outlive those who don’t find life funny; and the survival edge is particularly evident for people with cancer. That is, cancer sufferers who retain their sense of humour have a higher survival rate than those who do not. Some of the most resilient patients I have had the pleasure of treating in the past have been those who have maintained a sense of humour about their situation.
Interestingly, research conducted at the University of California also suggests that a sense of humor can bring families closer together. Apparently laughing together is a way to connect, and a good sense of humor also can make kids smarter, healthier and better able to cope with challenges. Apparently, a sense of humour is not necessarily just part of our genetic make-up, like blue eyes or the colour of our hair. A sense of humor is actually a learned quality that can be developed in children, not something they’re born with. Furthermore, kids with a well-developed sense of humor are happier and more optimistic, have higher self-esteem, and can handle differences well. Kids who can appreciate and share humor are better liked by their peers and more able to handle the
adversities of childhood such as bullying.
Dr Cris Beer
Holistic Medical Doctor