"The art of medicine consists of keeping the patient amused while nature heals the disease." (Voltaire) We were born with the gift of laughter. It lifts our spirits and makes us feel happy. Laughter is a contagious emotion. It can bring people together. It can help us feel more alive and empowered. Laughter is a natural medicine. Humor is a universal language. Best of all, it is free and has no known side reactions. Laughter therapy, also called humor therapy, is the use of humor to promote overall health and wellness. It aims to use the natural physiological process of laughter to help relieve physical or emotional stresses or discomfort. The Healing Power of Laughter Laughter can help you feel better about yourself and the world around you. Laughter can be a natural diversion. When you laugh, no other thought comes to mind. Laughing can also induce physical changes in the body. After laughing for only a few minutes, you may feel better for hours. Immune System Enhancement: The emotions and moods we experience directly affect our immune system. These positive emotions can create neurochemical changes that will buffer the immunosuppressive effects of stress. Clinical studies have shown that humor strengthens the immune system.
Better oxygen intake: Laughing is aerobic, providing a workout for the diaphragm and increasing the body's ability to use oxygen.
Cardiac Exercise: A belly laugh is equivalent to "an internal jogging." Laughter can provide good cardiac conditioning especially for those who are unable to perform physical exercises.
Cleansing lungs: Frequent belly laughter empties your lungs of more air than it takes in resulting in a cleansing effect - similar to deep breathing. Especially beneficial for patient's who are suffering from emphysema and other respiratory ailments.
Muscle Relaxation: Belly laugh results in muscle relaxation. While you laugh, the muscles that do not participate in the belly laugh, relaxes. After you finish laughing those muscles involved in the laughter start to relax. So the action takes place in two stages.
Pain Reduction: Humor allows a person to "forget" about pains such as aches, arthritis, etc.
Reduction of Stress Hormones: Laughter reduces at least four of neuroendocrine hormones associated with stress response. These are epinephrine, cortisol, dopac, and growth hormone. Dopamine is involved in the "fight or flight response" and is associated with elevated blood pressure. During stress, the adrenal gland releases corticosteroids (quickly converted to cortisol in the blood stream) and that elevated levels of these have an immunosuppressive effect. Berk's research demonstrates that laughter can lower cortisol levels.
Over the years, researchers have conducted studies to explore the impact of laughter on health. After evaluating participants before and after a humorous event (i.e., a comedy video), studies have revealed that episodes of laughter helped to reduce pain, decrease stress-related hormones and boost the immune system in participants. In Berk's study, the physiological response produced by belly laughter was opposite of what is seen in classical stress, supporting the conclusion that mirthful laughter is a eustress state - a state that produces healthy or positive emotions.
Today more than ever before, people are turning to humor for therapy and healing. Medical journals have acknowledged that laughter therapy can help improve quality of life for patients with chronic illnesses. Many hospitals now offer laughter therapy programs as a complementary treatment to illness. Patients, doctors and health-care professionals are all finding that laughter may indeed be the best medicine.
(Final prof BAMS)
Dayanand Ayurvedic College,