Photo Courtesy: Kelsey Barbara
Charles Darwin used to refer to humor as “a tickling of the mind”. However, as far as our brain is concerned, Richard Restak, a neurologist and neuro-psychiatrist says in the The American Scholar that “The brain has no humor “center”. Humor is associated with…brain networks involving the temporal and frontal lobes in the cerebral cortex.”
How does Laughter Affect Us?
So how does laughter and humor affect us to feel better? Restak explains that, “humor reduces levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and is thought to enhance our immune, endocrine, and cardiovascular systems. Laughter also provides a workout for the muscles of the diaphragm, abdomen, and face. A joke can raise our spirits, or ease our tension. If we’re able to laugh during a stressful situation, we can put psychological distance between ourselves and the stress.”
Here’s just one more way of letting go of some of that pent-up anger and stress. Check out CNN’s report on Laugh Therapy by Dr Sanjay Gupta below. The video suggests that even fake laughing has a positive affect on our moods, and that “faking it until we make it”, is a good place to start.
Laughter Therapy Yoga Therapy?
Origin of this Adage
So, how and when the adage “laughter is the best medicine” became popular in the first place? It is believed that it is a spin-off of a famous quote by Henry Ward Beecher, an American clergyman, social reformer, and speaker who lived in the 19th century whereby he said, “Mirth is God’s medicine. Everybody ought to bathe in it”. Also, the popular magazine Reader’s Digest has had a regular delightful section under this caption.
Universal Appeal of Laughter
If we examine our social lives in general, we can notice that some of the best moments we remember from our past are where we gathered with our friends or family and had a ‘blast’ with lots of laughter. In fact, we keep striving to recreate those times in our future interactions too.
Even while watching movies or TV Shows, we feel much lighter and refreshed after a comedy film or a hilarious episode of our favourite TV series. The dark shows or movies dealing with crimes or similar stuff always leave us drained.
But is it Really Medicine?
Laughing is found to lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormones, increase muscle flexion, and boost immune function by raising levels of infection-fighting T-cells, disease-fighting proteins called Gamma-interferon and B-cells, which produce disease-destroying antibodies. Laughter also triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, and produces a general sense of well-being.
Laughter is infectious. Hospitals around the country are incorporating formal and informal laughter therapy programs into their therapeutic regimens. In countries such as India, laughing clubs — in which participants gather in the early morning for the sole purpose of laughing — are becoming as popular as Rotary Clubs in the United States.
Humor is a universal language. It’s a contagious emotion and a natural diversion. It brings other people in and breaks down barriers. Best of all, it is free and has no known side reactions.
Check out Laughter Yoga; they’ve got cruises, workshops and professional trainings, all revolving around the power of the giggle.
A good laugh allows you to live in the moment. Even if that moment is brief, it can do wonders for your health.
Gina Laverde is a Chicago-based writer and researcher whose expertise in natural health stems from her experiences with Body Ecology Diet, Blood Type Diet and homeopathic remedies. Gina believes that we’re in the midst of a serious world health crisis, and that the key to survival lies within our guts.