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Laughter Really is the Best Medicine!

06. November 2012

It’s been a long time…years maybe.  But yesterday I laughed until I cried.

It all started after opening an e-mail from my friend, Julie. Along with a cheery greeting and update from Denver, she attached a link to a YouTube video and wrote, “for a good chuckle, check this out.”

I wasn’t really in the mood for a silly video and had work to do but Julie has a wonderfully bizarre sense of humor and I figured I could probably use a smile.  What I got was a gift! As the goofy Saturday Night Live parody played out, I got to laughing so hard I could barely breathe!

Tears streaming down my face, I caught my breath and re-played the video.  I don’t know what hit me, but by the end of the second view, I was literally from-the-gut guffawing…alone in my office…teardrops splashing all over my computer keyboard.  

As ridiculous as my uncontrolled laughing jag must have looked I couldn’t have cared less.  All I knew is I felt great! Refreshed, energized and in much better spirits, I got back to work. 

I’ve certainly heard about the healing power of laughter but just never gave it much thought.  So I did a little checking.  Turns out, it’s no joke. There’s a growing body of research that shows a good yuk may improve immune function, help lower blood pressure, boost mood and reduce stress and depression. 

Dr. Michael Miller, a cardiologist from the University of Maryland School of Medicine has done extensive research on the healing potential of laughter.  He says studies point to an upside in terms of both vascular and overall health. “These findings,” says Dr. Miller, “certainly support laughter as a reasonable prescription for heart health and health in general, especially since there’s no downside.”

A new study from Oxford University supports a long-held theory that laughter triggers an increase in endorphins…the brain chemicals that can help you feel good, distract you from pain and perhaps deliver other health benefits.

But apparently, it’s got to be more than a snicker here and there.  According to Dr. Robert Provine, the author of “Laughter: A Scientific Investigation,” the bigger the belly laugh, the bigger the health benefit.  A gentle ha-ha won’t do it. That guffaw’s gotta be real and unforced. “It should include strong vocalization, says Provine,” with an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and muscle contractions all over the body.”

Having a down day? Maybe you just need a good laugh. Rent a funny movie. Watch your favorite sit-com. Or try checking your e-mail.  There’s healing power in those forwarded YouTube videos of laughing babies or cats playing with printers.  Then, instead of writing LOL in response – why not “laugh out loud” for real?!

 

Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.