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Laughter Therapy-Should Doctors and Patients Embrace it?

A Brief History of Laughter Therapy

Laughter therapy dates back to the 13th century when physicians used laughter to distract patients from pain. The first person to document his personal experience on the use of humor to relieve long-standing pain and fight diseases was Norman Cousins. This made surgeons to adopt laughter and use its analgesic qualities to distract pain from patients undergoing surgical procedures. Even hospitals were built near movie theatres so that recovering patients could benefit from the radiance of laughter from the audience that enjoys comedic movies.

Similarly, in the darkest days of WWII survivors of concentration camps reported laughter to be their best defense against the violence from their oppressors.

This is what inspired public interest in the health benefits of laughter in the 1960’s and in 1996 an Indian cardiologist; Dr. Madan Kataria started a worldwide laughter movement. As I am writing, there are over 8000 laughter clubs worldwide meeting once every week to have 30 minutes session of laughing.

What does laughter therapy entail?

Laughter therapy is the practice that involves prolonged voluntary laughter that is done in groups with eye contact and playfulness between the participants where a false laughter is turned into a true laughter, and it’s said that the false laughter has the same physiological and psychological effects as the spontaneous laughter.

Who can take laughter therapy?

It’s ideal for anyone who is fit and looks for ways to better his/her life. It is the cheapest and most reliable medicine ever discovered. Apes and rats are capable of getting the giggles! Why not you? Laugh while you have the teeth.

Here are the health benefits that laughter therapy brings to your body.

Laughter therapy in stress and blood pressure control

It’s well known that chronic stress is a risk factor for hypertension (high blood pressure). But heart extended unconditional laughter decreases the levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. This allows for easy expansion and relaxation of blood vessels and thus lowers blood pressure. For better understanding, I’ll explain! When you have belly laughter, it actually stimulates your brain to release chemicals called endorphins which are the natural painkillers also in your body. These endorphins activate cells lining the walls of blood vessels to produce a version of laughing gas known as Nitric Oxide whose effect is further dilatation of blood vessels which means lowering of your blood pressure to near baseline levels.

Laughter therapy and blood sugar control in diabetic patients

Laughter is evidenced to lower post-prandial blood glucose. Laughter jogs your internal organs! It provides muscle work out to burn your glucose. In the year 2000, a Japanese researcher Keiko Hayashi and her associates published a research work in which they had their research subjects exposed to a forty minutes public lecture on the first day, and on the second day, the same research subjects were exposed to a forty minutes comedy show. On both days, research subjects were given the same meal and their post-prandial blood glucose was measured. There was a significant difference in post-prandial blood glucose which was found to be lower on the second day as compared to the first day. This study suggests that diabetic patients should daily find opportunities for laughing to lower their blood glucose.

Laughter also stimulates positive emotions which suppress negative emotions such as anxiety, fear, and sorrow which are also known to elevate blood glucose.

Laughter therapy in cancer prevention and recovery

Here laughter therapy is used as a supportive treatment. Endorphins which are triggered by laughter and released by the brain are the natural painkillers and the feeling-good chemicals in our bodies. Therefore, they maintain the state of well-being of cancer patients. But also, psychoimmunological studies have proved that laughter is associated with the increase of natural killer cells which are the tumor-killing cells in our bodies that also provide first-line defense against viral and bacterial infections. This boosts the low immunity of cancer patients. In advanced hospitals, there is what’s called “Mind-Body Medicine Department” where cancer patients and relatives meet “laughter therapists” to enjoy laughter as the tool for healing and comfort.

Lastly, How much should you laugh?

If you happen to read the book called “Laugh for no reason” by Dr. Madan Kataria, it’s said children can laugh up to five hundred times per day! But for an adult to maintain the state of wellness, when you wake up in the morning, look at your mirror and laugh for five minutes. Then laugh fifteen times during the remaining time of the day. That way, you will realize laughter to be the best medicine in the world. 

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