Is laughter the best medicine? Find out…
This is such a great article from the Wanganui Chronicle a local newspaper in New Zealand it resounds so magnificently with the objectives of this website. It is a direct quote from Google Alerts. I felt I could not say it any better. Enjoy.
Kids love to laugh.
Have you ever wondered why we laugh? There are loads of theories, but one I find particularly interesting is the evolutionary theory of laughter, which suggests that we use laughter as a way of signifying safety.
A researcher recently told me about a study that observed chimpanzees in their natural habitat. The chimps were seen to change their behaviour and facial expressions when they realised that a snake was not a snake but actually a stick. According to the researchers, the chimps appeared to start laughing when they realised their mistake. This signified to others that the situation was innocuous and they could all relax. Super interesting I think.
But moving into the 21st century, what are the benefits of laughter? We’ve all heard the old adage that laughter is the best medicine, but what is the veracity behind this particular folk wisdom?
A great laugh is a wonderful thing, not only does it feel great but the science is showing that laughing also has remarkable health benefits. A good laugh releases a tsunami of feel good chemicals and hormones in the body, which has amazing benefits for your physical health and mental agility.
Regular laughter strengthens the immune system and helps people to fight against illnesses from the common cold to cancer. Laughter reduces blood pressure, decreases stress hormones and relieves pain. A good laugh increases heart rate and blood flow, having a similar effect to exercise and can feel like the “runner’s high”.
The health benefits of laughing have propelled some hospitals to develop humour programmes for their patients and invest in clown doctors. Not only does it seem so intuitively right for clowns to be in hospitals, taking patients’ minds off their illness for a while, but with regular laughter strengthening the immune system clown doctors may in fact be aiding in recovery. How cool is that: laughter really may be the best medicine.
Unfortunately, as we get older we laugh less often. Kids reportedly laugh 300-400 times a day and adults 15-17 times. Why all this sobering up in our adult years?
We need reminding not to take life so seriously, make time for fun and frivolity. I say we need more practical jokes, more opportunities for humour – fart jokes always go a long way in our family. A friend of mine came home from work one day to find her nanny dressed as a giant caterpillar as she was making the kids’ dinner. Clearly meant just for the kids, but what a fantastic way to come home after a long day at work.
Laughing is no laughing matter. Given the health benefits of regular laughter, I’ve realised that ensuring my family gets a good laugh is just as important as a good diet. So what can you do to get giggling?
Join a yoga laughing group people who get together to participate in exercises that stimulate laughter. Tens of thousands of people are meeting all around the world in groups to laugh. Started in India a few decades ago (a friend told me about these laughing groups he’d seen all through parks in Mumbai when he was living there) there are now around 16000 laughter clubs all around the world, practiced in schools, businesses, prisons, police and hospitals. You can read about New Zealand’s laughter yoga club at www.laughteryoga.org.nz.
I looked up laughing clubs on Youtube and watched some of the exercises used in laughing yoga. Just watching other people laugh I started to smile and chuckle along. This is because laughing is contagious.
Brain scans show that when we watch another person smile or laugh the same regions of the brain light up as if we were smiling and laughing ourselves.
The other day I was shot down in the street, in open daylight with no one offering to help me. Instead my misfortune elicited laughter in the bystanders. Luckily it was only a 3-year-old who shot me down with a gun stick, but it was quite an elaborate death that would stand up in any western movie.
It was fun to watch the kids laugh and the post-laughter glow set me up for the rest of the day.
So what do you have to laugh about?
A registered psychologist with a masters in applied psychology, Wanganui mother-of-two Kristen Hamling is studying for a PhD in positive psychology at Auckland University of Technology.
– WANGANUI CHRONICLE