Laughter is the Best Medicine
There's something about the sound of laughter that's contagious, especially when it comes from a baby. Have you ever laughed so hard it hurt? The worst/best is when you can't stop laughing. I don't know how that affects health, but some of my favorite memories are of times like those. A few of my good friends have the best laughs, which are sometimes peppered with snorts as they try to catch their breath.
I love it when people laugh with abandon!
While it is normally only considered cliché that "laughter is the best medicine," specific medical theories attribute improved health and well-being to laughter.
A study demonstrated neuroendocrine and stress-related hormones decreased during episodes of laughter, which provides support for the claim that humor can relieve stress.
Norman Cousins wrote a book, Anatomy of an Illness As Perceived by the Patient, in 1979, on his experience with laughter in helping him recover from a serious illness.
In 1989, the Journal of the American Medical Association published an article, wherein the author wrote that "a humor therapy program can increase the quality of life for patients with chronic problems and that laughter has an immediate symptom-relieving effect for these patients, an effect that is potentiated when laughter is induced regularly over a period". *
* "Laugh If This Is a Joke", JAMA, Jan 1989, 261: 558., by Lars Ljungdahl
Healing Through HUMOR
"One bout of anger will diminish the efficiency of your immune system for six hours, but one good laugh will increase the efficiency of your immune system for twenty-four hours."
- Dr. Francisco Contreras, M.D., Surgical Oncologist and Director, Oasis of Hope Hospital, Tijuana, Mexico
In the forward to Charles and Frances Hunter's book, "Healing Through Humor", Dr. Contreras writes: "Science has definitively confirmed the potent healing factor of laughter. Whether studies were conducted in Japan (1) or Loma Linda, California (2), objective results indicate that patients who experience laughter receive a boost to their immune system as measured in the elevation of natural killer cell activity and immuno-globulin" [a complex group of proteins that serve as antibodies in your immune system].
He adds: "There are so many objective clinical trials that support the healing power of humor that it surprises me that few doctors take advantage of this 'medication.'"
(1) K. Takahashi, M. Iwase, et al, "The elevation of natural killer cell activity induced by laughter in a crossover study," International Journal of Molecular Medicine, December 2001, 8(6):645-650.
(2) L.S. Berk, D.L. Felten, et al, "Modulation of neuroimmune parameters during the eustress or humor-associated mirthful laughter," Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, March 2001, 7(2):62-72, 74-76.
Fun Facts: What Happens When You Laugh
Research confirms the following health benefits reaped from a hearty chuckle:
* Your heart and lungs are stimulated.
* You breathe deeper and oxygenate more blood.
* Your body releases endorphins, your own natural pain killers, and you produce more immune cells.
* You burn seventy-eight times as many calories as you would in a resting state.
* The residual effects of laughter are also something to smile about -- your muscles and arteries relax, which helps ease pain, and your blood pressure lowers and your pulse drops below normal, all of which some researchers think helps your digestion.
"A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones."
— Proverbs 17:22
The New English Bible translation says, "a merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, but low spirits sap a man's strength."
Tips For Getting More Laughter Out of Life
+ Don't take yourself so seriously.
+ Look for at least one bright spot in every circumstance.
+ Rent wholesome humor videos and read books with clean jokes (such as the Hunters' "Healing Through Humor").
+ Practice doing a hearty belly-laugh.
+ Make an honest effort to adopt an attitude of gratitude and joy.