Laughter medicine is serious medicine.
You likely know that laughing makes you feel good. Now science proves that it counters the harmful effects of stress and promotes natural healing.
“If we took what we know about the benefits of laughter and bottled it up, it would require FDA approval,” says Lee Burke, professor of the University of California-Irvine.
Laughter Medicine Benefits
- Triggers the release of endorphins (brain chemicals that produce euphoria and decrease pain).
- Good for the heart. Has positive effects on the inner lining of blood vessels and improves blood flow.
- Lowers blood pressure.
- Boosts the immune system: Gama Interferon (a disease fighting protein), B-cells (produce disease destroying antibodies), and T-Cells (orchestrate the immune response) all rise with laughter.
- Counteracts stress hormones that suppress the immune system, raise blood pressure, and interfere with normal platelet function which can lead to dangerous clots.
- Fosters a positive and hopeful attitude making it less likely to succumb to stress and feelings of depression and helplessness.
Do You Need Laughter Medicine?
Have you lost touch with your sense of humor?
Many do as they grow older: the average child laughs hundreds of times a day, whereas most adults only laugh 12 times a day. Its easy to be suffering with laughter deprivation and not even realize it.
Anyone can benefit from more laughter: It’s easy to do, feels great, costs you nothing, and “fun” is its only side effect.
Having trouble getting started? Well, here are a few ideas from some notable figures:
- Watch Humorous Programs or MoviesNorman Cousins found the hospital environment so noisy and disturbing that he decided to check himself into a nearby hotel when trying to recover from a near-fatal illness.To speed his recovery he took vitamin C, trained himself to focus on positive emotions, and took large doses of laughter.
”I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep,” said Cousins. “When the pain-killing effect of the laughter wore off, we would switch on the motion picture projector [Max Brothers’ films] again and not infrequently, it would lead to another pain-free interval.“
- Join a Laughter Club, Practice Laughter YogaDr. Madan Kataria launched the first Laughter Club on March 13, 1995. Today, it has become a worldwide phenomenon with more than 6000 Social Laughter Clubs in 60 countries.Kataria calls his method “Laughter Yoga” as it combines unconditional laughter with Yogic breathing (Pranayama).
During a laughter club group, you simulate laughter as a body exercise with eye contact and childlike playfulness. It soon tuns into real and contagious laughter.
“Anyone can Laugh for No Reason, without relying on humor, jokes or comedy and get the same benefits,” says Kataria.
- Read or Tell Humorous Stories and/or JokesPresident Abraham Lincoln treated his bouts of severe depression and anxiety by reading humorous books and telling jokes.One account reports that if his friends could get him to laugh at funny stories or have him tell one of his jokes or humorous anecdotes his mood would lighten significantly.
On the election night of 1864, a member of Lincoln’s cabinet left the White House in disgust, thinking that Lincoln was not taking the election seriously when he saw him reading a humorous book. He did not realize that Lincoln was using laughter medicine for his anxiety as he was anticipating a bad outcome.
There’s probably millions of ways to take laughter medicine. What’s key is to rekindle your sense of humor by noticing what makes you laugh and doing more of it!
Laughter medicine is serious medicine with many proven benefits including pain relief and a stronger immune system.
You were born to laugh! Notice what makes you laugh and take your laughter medicine every day.
Sources and Resources
Amen, Daniel, G., Magnificent Mind at Any Age: Natural Ways to Unleash Your Brain’s Maximum Potential (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2008).
Cousins, Norman, Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient: Reflections on Healing and Regeneration, (New York: Norton and Company, 1979).
Dunbar, R.I.M, et. al., “Social Laughter is Correlated with an Elevated Pain Threshold,” Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, August 26, 2011.
Laughter Yoga International at http://www.laughteryoga.org.
Wikipedia, “Norma Cousins” at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Cousins.