Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Medicinal Laughter

It's been said ad nauseum - laughter is the  best medicine. There is an abundance of research to back up the claim. 

A report issued by the University of Maryland Medical Center provided data to suggest that laughter is linked to healthier cardio-vascular health. 

Miller said that the most significant study finding was that "people with heart disease responded less humorously to everyday life situations." They generally laughed less, even in positive situations, and they displayed more anger and hostility.

"The ability to laugh -- either naturally or as learned behavior -- may have important implications in societies such as the U.S. where heart disease remains the number one killer," says Miller. "We know that exercising, not smoking and eating foods low in saturated fat will reduce the risk of heart disease. Perhaps regular, hearty laughter should be added to the list."

A study completed by Loma Linda University in California showed that laughter activated the immune system in several ways: 

An increase in the number and activity level of natural killer cells that attack viral infected cells and some types of cancer and tumor cells.

An increase in activated T cells (T lymphocytes). There are many T cells that await activation. Laughter appears to tell the immune system to "turn it up a notch."

An increase in the antibody IgA (immunoglobulin A), which fights upper respiratory tract insults and infections.

An increase in gamma interferon, which tells various components of the immune system to "turn on."

An increase in IgB, the immunoglobulin produced in the greatest quantity in body, as well as an increase in Complement 3, which helps antibodies to pierce dysfunctional or infected cells. The increase in both substances was not only present while subjects watched a humor video; there also was a lingering effect that continued to show increased levels the next day.
So are those of us who are curmudgeonly, cranky, or just don't get the joke doomed?

Not if you sign up for the nearest laughter yoga class. This Science Daily article from May 2008, describes the University of Michigan Healthcare System's class and it's  benefits: 

“Kids laugh about 400 times a day, and adults only about 15,” notes Barb Fisher, a certified laughter yoga leader and the instructor of this class offered by the U-M Health System’s MFit health promotion division. “Laughter is a gift that has been given to us to make us feel better.”

Fisher teaches her students that not only is it fun to laugh, but that laughter yoga (also known as hasya yoga) can provide many health benefits:

  • Help to reduce stress
  • Enhance the immune system
  • Strengthen cardiovascular functions
  • Oxygenate the body by boosting the respiratory system
  • Improve circulation
  • Tone muscles
  • Help with digestion and constipation
I guess we need to take our lightheartedness more seriously. Laughter yoga may be one way to get your daily humor allowance in, but my personal preferences may be different. So may yours.

 Go find your laughs for the day, and share them with me. We'll all be healthier. 

No comments: