Although modern science has changed these beliefs and laughter is consider today a manifestation of physical sensations and mental states – it has been proven that laughter is present not only in the case of humans, but also in other mammals and it remains a fascinating behavior, worthy of all the attention that researchers offer it.
However, one of the many facets of the complicated relation between laughter, mind and body seems to have caught all the attention of scientists: laughter as a means of healing.
The proverb which says that “Laughter is the best medicine” could be a little bit exaggerated – laughter is not the best cure in every situation – but certainly, it can often have a powerful therapeutic effect. And the truth in the old proverb can be verified every day and not just in the case of ordinary situations.
How many times didn’t you come to work in a bad mood because of a cold or a back pain and a good session of laughter with your colleagues made you feel better? Well, scientists discovered that sometimes, even serious health problems can be alleviated by the beneficial effects of laughter.
What is laughter?
Some anthropologists consider laughter as a form of communication, maybe the first appeared in the case of humans. They consider laughter to be a primitive, universal language. Everyone laughs in the same way, while the articulated language needs thousands of variations to be understood.
From the perspective of many ethologists, laughter is a mechanism of balancing emotions.
Philosophers believe that laughter is a reaction of man when he is confronted with existential anxiety. A modern philosopher, John Morreall said that laughter may have originated in the feeling of relief that people experience after passing through a dangerous or difficult situation.
With time, the human behavior has evolved into more subtle forms and “danger” does not still represent such a major threat. It can be simply represented by a feeling of uncertainty, created by the confrontation with cognitive problems.
For example, when a comedian tells a joke, listeners are initially a little bit confused, dealing with a cognitive challenge.
Once they understand the joke, listeners realize that it was quite a pleasant surprise and start laughing – communicating to each other the feeling of relief.
Laughter as Therapy
The last decade has brought many arguments in support of the proverb mentioned at the beginning of the article, drawn from the research which found an unsuspected strong connection between laughter and health. In addition to these studies, it has been discovered that cheerful and optimistic people are generally healthier and live longer; scientists have begun to reveal specific connections between laughter therapy and the development of diseases such as dementia, cancer or cardiovascular affections.
A study published by researchers from the University of Maryland, USA, shows that laughter causes the dilation of vascular endothelium (inner tissue of blood vessels) and improves blood circulation. The effect is due to the release of compounds such as endorphins from the hypothalamus, which, attached to specific receptors in the vascular endothelium, stimulate the production of nitric oxide. This substance has the effect of dilating blood vessels and, as shown in other studies, reduces inflammation and decreases the probability of forming blood clots.
Laughter can also:
- Boost our immune system, lower blood pressure, reduces the level of stress hormones (such as cortisol and epinephrine),
- Lower the level of cholesterol in the blood – thereby it decreases the risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes
- Laughter is also good as physical exercise, helping us to balance our body functions.
A healthy laughter makes our diaphragm move, a muscle that has an important role in blood circulation – thus, this is why, laughter has been recently used as part of treatment for varicose ulcers.
Laughter cures diseases
Researchers from New South Wales University, Australia claim that laughter is an effective cure for dementia. 400 patients suffering from dementia were involved in this research project which involved therapy through humor. 200 of the patients listened to jokes, funny songs and played games every day, while the other 200 have received the standard treatment.
At the end of the experiment, the results were very promising for those who have received the humor therapy: the anxiety (one of the most common symptoms of this disease) has decreased on average by 20 % – decreasing the quantity of medicines needed daily for these patients.
We have presented you sufficient reasons to consider laughter one of the best therapeutic methods. Thus, as laughter therapy is at hand, pleasant and without any side effects – why not adopt it every day?
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