Laughter - Still the Best Medicine
by Drs. Gael Crystal & Patrick Flanagan
Scientists have found that laughter is a form of internal jogging that exercises the body and stimulates the release of beneficial brain neurotransmitters and hormones. Positive outlook and laughter is actually good for our health!
Adults laugh approximately 15 times per day, while children laugh about 400 times a day! When we grew up, somehow we lost a few hundred laughs a day. By learning to smile and laugh again, more easily and often, we could have a profound and positive effect on our health and well being.
The new science of psychoneuroimmunology is the study of how our state of mind affects our health. More than ever, scientific evidence suggests that laughter really is one of the best medicines.
At California's Loma Linda University Medical Center, Lee Berk, assistant research professor, and Stanley Tan, Endocrinologist, and their colleagues, are in the lead in understanding the physiology of merriment. We now know that there are two types of stress: good stress and bad stress. Laughter is a form of good stress, or stress in reverse.
Research on stress has shown that bad stress suppresses your immune system. Drs. Tan and Berk wanted to find out if a form of good stress, or laughter, would improve the immune system.
They studied groups of average adults and found that both arms of the immune system got a boost out of laughter. Subjects faced a solid hour of induced merriment from videos of comedians, while a control group sat quietly out of earshot. These doctors took blood samples at 10 minute intervals before, during and after the laughter workout.
They found that humor and exercise trigger similar physiological processes. Like conditioned athletes, the laughter group showed increases in the good hormones --such as endorphins and neurotransmitters -- and decreased levels of the stress hormones -- cortisol and adrenaline. Laughter is one of the body's safety valves, a counter balance to tension. When we release that tension, the elevated levels of the body's stress hormones drop back to normal, thereby allowing our immune systems to work more effectively.
Cells which produce anti-bodies increase in number, T-cells which combat viruses are activated and ready for battle. Our natural killer cells increase in number and activity. All this occurs as a direct result of laughter!
Dr. Tan states it all quite eloquently: "All these neuro-hormones act like an orchestra, each instrument makes a particular note. Laughter makes the entire orchestra more melodious or balanced. In other words, laughter brings a balance to all the components of the immune system."
In some clinics, scattered here and there throughout the world, laughter is beginning to take the place of anti-depressant drugs and reduces the need for pain killers.
On an interesting note: Faking laughter will also cause the body to respond as though the laughter is real. The physiological changes we discussed that occur with real laughter will also take effect even when we just pretend to laugh.
Psychiatrist Robert Holden, who runs laughter clinics for England's National Health Service, says, "Smiling and laughing produce happy chemicals called endorphins which work in the brain to give an overall feeling of well-being."
Being unhappy or very sad can seriously damage your health. So don't worry, be happy!
There is truth in the old saying: He who laughs ...lasts!