Hi, Welcome to this weeks blog.
I said a few weeks ago that I handled the current Covid-19 situation with humour. I knew a lot of people were worried and even scared, but I felt that the last thing they needed was for someone to keep reminding them that they were feeling anxious or stressed. I wanted to take their mind off of the situation so each day I posted an original funny picture or a corny gag to make people start their day with a smile. I didn’t take the decision lightly as I knew that people all around the world were suffering or sadly dying. However there was nothing that I could do to stop that, but I could make people smile and take their mind off of the situation, even if only for a short time. Turns out I was right. I continued to study the effects of laughter and I have compiled this list to show you just how much it helps.
They say that laughter is “the best medicine,” and as it turns out, there is some scientific truth to this assertion. Humour-associated laughter has numerous health benefits, so here are 10 reasons you should laugh it up.
LAUGHTER IS A SIGN OF GOODWILL TO ALL OTHERS.
Laughter may be unique to humans. Why do we do it? According to a 2010 study in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, laughter and smiling are generally intended as a message of good will. The authors extrapolate that there is a similar function in primates, who use facial expressions with bared teeth to suggest friendliness and sociability. They write, “Because some forms of smiling are voluntary and easily faked, laughter, which requires a more synergetic contraction of the wider musculature, is believed to have evolved in humans to express a secure, safe message to others.”
LAUGHTER MAY REDUCE YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE.
High blood pressure (hypertension) is one of the most dangerous side effects of stress, as well as a huge risk factor for heart disease and stroke. However, it’s hard to be stressed when you’re laughing, so researchers have investigated whether laughter can bring blood pressure down. There are more than a few studies that show a reduction of blood pressure after laughter, such as a 2017 study in the Journal of Dental and Medical Research, where 40 patients undergoing hemodialysis listened to CDs of comic shows for 16 30-minute sessions over eight weeks, and saw a decrease in blood pressure.
After three months, the blood pressure readings significantly decreased overall by 5 mmHg among the laughers. People in the comparison group showed no change in blood pressure readings.
LAUGHTER CAN REDUCE ANXIETY AND OTHER NEGATIVE EMOTIONS.
A 1990 study in Psychological Reports looked at the effects of humorous laughter on threat-induced anxiety. Researchers led 53 college students to believe (falsely) that they were going to receive an electric shock after a waiting period.
Subjects in the experiment group listened to a humorous tape while waiting for their shock. The placebo group listened to a non-humorous tape, and the control group did not listen to any tape. The humour group reported that their anxiety decreased during the anticipatory period, and those with the highest self-reported level of sense of humour had the lowest reported anxiety.
Laughter therapy has also been shown to improve anxiety in patients with Parkinson’s disease, reduce anxiety and depression in nursing students, and improve optimism, self-esteem, and depression in menopausal women.
Laughter can act as positive coping mechanisms to help a person get through difficult times.
LAUGHTER IS AN IMMUNE BOOSTER.
At the beginning of cold and flu season, it may be a good idea to practice some laughter therapy, as several studies have shown the immune boosting power of a chuckle. Watching a funny film or listening to a comedy podcast is great for the mind and body.
LAUGHTER MAY ACT AS A NATURAL ANTI-DEPRESSANT.
While nobody would recommend laughter in lieu of other treatment for depression, it has shown promise at lifting depressed moods. Patients in long-term care facilities often suffer from depression and poor sleep, so a 2017 study tested the effects of laughter therapy on 42 residents of two long-term care hospitals. The results were promising.
The laugher therapy, which the subjects undertook over eight sessions, for 40 minutes twice a week, included “singing funny songs, laughing for diversion, stretching, playing with hands and dance routines, laughing exercises, healthy clapping, and laughing aloud.”
The results showed reduced depression and general mood improvement as well as improved sleep in the experiment group compared to the control group.
YOU BREATHE BETTER AFTER LAUGHING.
It turns out that a good bout of deep belly laughter can lead to increased heart rate, respiratory rate, and oxygen consumption, which are similar to what happens during exercise. While a 2009 study in the International Journal of Humour Research found that these changes only last as long as the laughter itself, if you can laugh like that for 30 minutes to an hour, maybe you can skip the gym.
LAUGHTER IS GOOD FOR YOUR CARDIOVASCULAR SYSTEM.
Your lungs aren’t the only organ that benefits from a great guffaw. A 2009 study in Medical Hypotheses found powerful benefits to the heart and cardiovascular system.
Study participants watched either a comedy like Only Fools and Horses or the bleak opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan, which is known to increase mental stress. They used a technique called brachial artery reactivity testing (BART), a form of ultrasound that looks at the brachial artery. Participants who watched the stressful movie experienced a 35 percent reduction in flow-mediated vasodilation (FMD, or how blood vessels dilate and contract); sluggish FMD is a risk factor for atherosclerosis. Meanwhile, the group that watched the funny scene saw a 22 percent increase in FMD, comparable to exercise. In short, laughing helped their blood flow better.
The Heart Association recommends laughter for a healthy heart, adding that research has shown laughter promotes reduced artery inflammation and increased production of HDL, or “good” cholesterol.
LAUGHTER CALMS STRESS HORMONES.
Humour, and by extension, laughter, stimulates multiple physiological systems that decrease levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol and epinephrine, and increase the activation of the dopamine-dispensing reward system of the brain, according to researchers of a 2017 study in Advances in Physiology Education. A 2003 study in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine found that viewing a funny film decreased a wide variety of stress hormones.
SOCIAL LAUGHTER CAN RELIEVE PAIN.
Laughter might be as good as some analgesics for pain, something early physicians seemed to understand. In the 14th century, French surgeon Henri de Mondeville used humour to distract patients from the pain of surgery and to help them during recovery.
More modern research has found that participants who watched comedy videos needed less pain medication than those who watched control videos. In a 2011 study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, over the course of six experiments using extreme cold as a pain-tolerance measure, researchers found that social laughter—laughter done in groups in a social context—elevates pain thresholds. The authors suggest, “These results can best be explained by the action of endorphins released by laughter.”
LAUGHING BURNS CALORIES.
As if all of these benefits aren’t a good enough reason to giggle every day, a 2014 study in the International Journal of Obesity found that laughter can burn calories. Researchers broke a group of 45 participants into two groups, half of whom watched film clips intended to evoke laughter for approximately 10 minutes, and half who watched film clips unlikely to stimulate laughter. Both groups were attached to a “calorimeter” that measured energy expenditure and heart rate. They determined that those who laughed during their viewing burned up to 10 calories in 10 minutes, as compared to those who did not laugh and did not burn any calories.
So turns out not only was I making people smile I was helping in all sorts of ways.
I got such positive feedback from Facebook friends and followers that I made a book which is now available from Amazon in Paperback Kindle and direct from me as an Ebook. Come on, you knew there had to be a plug in their somewhere. PS. Half the profits (if there are any, Please buy my book 🙂 ) will go to an NHS charity.
Over 200 jokes and original pictures, to keep you smiling long after this virus has gone.
Until next week. Take care and stay safe.
Hypnotherapy in Suffolk, Essex and Cambridge. and online via Zoom
Jon Adkin Author of ‘Can I Change?’ Available from Amazon.