Laughter truly is good medicine. When was the last time you had a really good laugh? Laughter has been shown to not only be good for you but is contagious. Have you ever found yourself laughing with somebody 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 unrestricted enjoyment left you feeling great! This is the foundation of a form of therapy known as ‘Laughter Yoga’.
During a gathering 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 decision from participants is ubiquitous, ‘….a strangely 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 recent research by cardiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, laughter, along with a lively sense of humour, may help protect you against a heart attack. This study is the first to specify 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 circumstances linked 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 showed that laughter can help:
- Reduce stress and elevate mood
- Foster instant relaxation
- Lower blood pressure
- Lift the immune system
- Increase 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, presented that those who have a sense of humour outlive those who don’t find life funny; and the survival edge is mostly evident for people with cancer3. That is, cancer sufferers who retain their sense of humour have a complex survival rate than those who do not. Some of the most resilient patients I have had the desire of treating in the past have been those who have maintained a sense of humour about their situation.
Fascinatingly, research conducted at the University of California also proposes that a sense of humour can bring families closer together. Apparently laughing together is a way to connect, and a good sense of humour also can make kids smarter, healthier and better able to cope with certain challenges. Apparently, a sense of humour is not essentially just part of our genetic make-up, like blue eyes or the colour of our hair. A sense of humour is actually a learned quality that can be developed in children, not something they’re born with. Additionally, kids with a well-built sense of humour are happier and more optimistic, have higher self-esteem, and can handle changes well. Kids who can gain and share humour are better liked by their peers and more able to handle the adversities of childhood such as bullying.
Why is Laughter So Good For You?
The confident effects of laughter are credited to powerful chemicals released in the
brain called ‘endorphins’. These are tougher than any painkiller bent artificially by
man. Endorphins also activate an optimistic feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine.
For example, the feeling that follows a run or workout is often described as ‘euphoric’.
That feeling, known as a ‘runner’s high’, can be convoyed by a positive and energising
outlook on life.
Holistic Medical Doctor