Laughter as Medicine

Because our attitudes really do affect our health, laughter truly is the best medicine. It’s common sense, really, that when we are happier, we feel better. Being able to laugh, and even finding things that make us giggle, could be just the remedy for all sorts of ailments, including some of the worse. Scientists have been studying the affects of laughter for many years now and some of the conclusions may surprise you.

Laughter helps our bodies relax. The Mayo Clinic reports that laughter lowers stress, helps in overall relaxation and enhances your oxygen intake. Other physical benefits that contribute to relaxation are the temporary increase in heart rate and blood pressure that leads to a “cooling down” of the stress response centers in the brain. This gives immediate relief from that stressed-out feeling.

Laughter decreases pain levels. When we laugh, our brain releases endorphins. In an Oxford University study, people who were subjected to painful activities had a lower pain response if they were watching funny videos. The endorphin release brought about by laughing was the very thing that blocked the pain.

Laughter burns calories. We move in unique ways when we laugh. A study done by Vanderbilt University determined that for each 10 minutes we spend laughing, we burn up to 40 calories. That might not seem like much, but it’s certainly better than nothing, and a much more fun way to exercise.

Laughter is being used to compliment cancer treatment. The most serious studies done on laughter are those that suggest it can greatly increase survival rates in cancer patients. The Cancer Treatment Centers of America encourage patients to consider laughter therapy as a natural immune booster and offer a “Laughter Club” for their patients at each of their centers. It’s not just about an improved quality of life for patients who use laughter as a diversion, scientist now believe it is a good companion to all traditional cancer treatments.

There’s one thing we can be sure of with laughter as part of any treatment protocol: it certainly couldn’t hurt.

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