Growing evidence confirms suspicions that laughter is not only fun, but good for us! WebMD reports that laughter and moderate exercise share a host of healthful effects. According to Dr. Lee Berk's research, appetite hormones behave the same way after a good giggle as they do after a few workout reps. In science-speak: leptin goes down and grehlin goes up. Berk's volunteers watched stressful videos and hilarious videos (in no particular order) while their hormones were monitored. The results show comedy may be good for more than a chuckle.
Berk hopes his findings can assist patients who have lost their appetite. The elderly, handicapped, depressed and ill might benefit from repetitive laughter research. Overachievers may well enjoy a chortle during exercise for added benefit. Though a small study, Berk's work joins other science in supporting laughter as good medicine. More conclusive work may cause this writer to re-evaluate the association between 'cackles' and 'evil'. What can't hurt may heal!
Wanna come try laughter yoga with me?
The original study
Gita Fendelman is a laughter yoga instructor and member of the Tucson Laughter Club. It's been seven years since she was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, and four since she started practicing laughter yoga. Since she started laughing, she's ditched conventional medication for what she calls her "inner pharmacy" – laughter. It's all she needs to feel healthy.
Though Fendelman had been practicing Hatha yoga since 1971, her illness hindered her ability to do her traditional practice. "I heard of laughter yoga, and I figured I could still laugh," she said. She also remarked that laughter can improve many disorders aside from Parkinson's such as depression, chronic pain, sleep disorders, diabetes and arthritis. Fendelman insists that the only side effects are good ones – like when you just can't stop laughing.
A sisxteen-year-old girl with a rare liver disease that eventually left her paralyzed has made major steps towards recovery with laughter yoga. Unable to speak or move, the teen's family thought she would never recover a sense of humor. Yet with the help of two hospital-employed therapeutic clowns who encouraged lung and vocal chord exercises through laughter yoga, the girl started speaking and gaining back motion. The medical doctors at the hospital claim that the clowns' presence in stressful situations creates a calm environment for both the patient and the physician. One clown said, "The doctors and nurses take care of health care, we take care of the spirit".
Once again, scientist have found that laughter can lower blood pressure and prevent hypertension. Well, they at least observed an 'association' between the two. The exciting part of the study, is that the Japanese researchers brought in a bunch of laughter yogis to instigate the laughing under investigation. They worked with music therapists as well, and found that the groups participating in laughing and music not only lowered their blood pressure, but were more likely to be motivated to exercise.
Though the study requires more scrutiny, one Dr. John Ciccone, a preventive cardiologist at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in West Orange, N.J. proposed that relaxation techniques such as laughter yoga and music therapy are "not outside the mainstream anymore… I think a lot of what was considered alternative is no longer alternative." Here I come General Hospital.
If you have been mindful of your stress levels this month, well done. April is National Stress Awareness Month and according to the Society for Vascular Surgery, laughter is a key function in reducing stress and hypertension. Fortunately, April is also National Humor Month. You may have never heard of either holiday, but they are easy enough to celebrate. The two go hand in hand and it's as simple as laughing off your stress. Attending my laughter yoga class is a great way to start.
Stress greatly impacts blood pressure, which can lead to high blood pressure (hypertension), and eventually, cardiovascular disease. On the contrary, Dr. Vivienne Halpern from the Society for Vascular Surgery stated that ???laughter reduces the level of stress hormones (cortisol, epinephrine, dopamine, and growth hormone) and increases the level of health-enhancing hormones (endorphins and neurotransmitters)… this can result in a stronger immune system and fewer physical effects of stress.??? So heed the advice of April's healthy holidays and get giggling. Maybe it'll help combat these nasty Spring colds that are going around.