All kidding aside, IS laughter really the best medicine? Could a daily dose of “ho ho ho” heal what’s wrong, or is it just a sick joke?
The health benefits of laughter have been praised since biblical times, with proverbs like, “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” Shakespeare wrote years later, “Merriment bars a thousand harms and lengthens life.”
And today, laughter therapy research and laughter yoga tend to agree.
Laughter has been found to boost your immune system, reduce pain, heal your heart, decrease stress and increase your feel-good hormones. But best of all, laughter is fun, free and has no negative side effects.
The Health Benefits of Laughter Therapy
More than likely, if you go to a doctor or a shrink for some ailment, they’re not going to write a prescription that includes a good belly laugh.
But “laughter therapy” is a new use-your-mind to heal-your-body approach that is growing rapidly in popularity. “And it’s as real as taking a drug,” says Dr. Lee Berk, Professor of Medicine at Loma Linda University.
As Norman Cousins tells us in his book, Anatomy of an Illness (As Perceived by the Patient), when he was diagnosed with a terminal disease, he was unable to move, given little hope and in constant pain.
Cousins credited his recovery to a prescription for watching funny movies. With every 10 minutes of laughter, he got two hours of pain-free sleep.
Years later, using movies to rate the effectiveness of laughter therapy on cardiovascular health, Dr. Michael Miller from the University of Maryland School of Medicine discovered that laughter is great for your heart.
The American College of Cardiology presented his breakthrough research.
Dr. Miller’s team measured the blood flow from healthy participants both before and after they watched two very different films: the graphic war movie, Saving Private Ryan and the hilarious comedy, Kingpin.
The blood flow differences were quite dramatic – a 35% DECREASE after the war movie and a 22% INCREASE for the comedy. Dr. Miller’s conclusion? Laughter may be as good for your heart as exercise!
The Health Benefits of Laughter Yoga
The benefits of laughter yoga include all the benefits of laughter therapy, plus laughing yoga combines laughter with yoga breathing exercises.
Laughing yoga is a body-mind approach to laughter, which means you don’t need to find a way to feel happy. You “fake it until you make it” and that fake laughter soon turns into the real thing with real benefits.
Here are the main health benefits of laughter therapy and laughter yoga:
- Reduces pain
- Adds joy to life
- Relieves stress
- Enhances mood
- Relaxes muscles
- Eases depression
- Builds relationships
- Improves blood flow
- Attracts others to you
- Strengthens immunity
- Massages your muscles
- Exercises your whole body
- Releases feel-good hormones
- Promotes cardiovascular health
Most hospitals today encourage patients to laugh. Many have TV comedy channels, comedy rooms and regular visits from clowns. As Groucho Marx said, “A clown is like an aspirin, only he works twice as fast.”
Turn Your Frown 🙁 Upside Down 🙂 and Start Clowning Around
Studies show the perfect prescription for a long, happy life is to eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and tune into the cosmic laugh-track.
So, do the benefits of laughter prove that laughter is the BEST medicine?
The answer is it doesn’t really matter. Because whether you use a laughter therapy mind-body approach or body-mind laughter yoga, if you want to feel good as often as possible, you’ll laugh every chance you get!
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