You might not believe this but laughter really is the best medicine.
(From my book “Taming Life – Happiness Is Not a Myth”)
Doctor William Fry was an American psychiatrist at Stanford University, who is considered to be the daddy of, get this, “Gelotology”, which is the study of humour as therapy. Dr Fry founded Gelotology and was a pioneer in the field of therapeutic humour. He began to study the effects of humour as a therapy in the late 1960s.
In 1979, Norman Cousins, was an American political writer, who wrote a book entitled Anatomy of an Illness. In his book he talked about a potentially fatal disease he had contracted in 1964. Cousins described that by spending ten minutes laughing his butt off every day he was able to get two hours of pain free sleep. Because of his story a number of members of the scientific community began to research the benefits of laughter.
Dr Lee Berk from Loma Linda University Medical Centre in California was inspired by Cousins’ book so he put together a team of researchers from the field of psycho-neuro-immunology (PNI) and also began to study the effects of laughter as therapy.
In his study Dr Berk divided a group of heart attack victims into two groups. The first group were treated with conventional medical practices. The second group was instructed to watch thirty minutes of comedy every day. After a year this group presented with fewer arrhythmias, lower blood pressure, lower levels of stress hormones, and required lower doses of medication. The other group unfortunately presented with two and a half times more recurrent heart attacks than the funny group. There is a great number of studies published on the internet so if you would like to learn more, you will have enough reading material to keep you busy for a while.
You might recall me talking about the stress hormone Cortisol that inhibits our immune system as well as other systems in our bodies? It turns out that laughter reduces Cortisol levels in our bloodstream. This has been observed in all of these scientific studies. It stands to reason that because laughter makes us feel good, our pituitary gland (in our brain), releases endorphins into our bloodstream, and endorphins are our feel good neuropeptides. Since our body cannot be in protection and growth states at the same time, by artificially producing a happy state we are actually affecting what happens in our body on a cellular level.
In the above mentioned studies doctors and researchers found that laughter has many different side effects from a medical perspective. Apart from getting rid of our stress hormones, laughter also helps with our respiratory system. Not only that, when we laugh we are also giving our muscles a good work out and since our body can’t tell the difference between a real or a fake laughter, anything that makes you laugh will have a very positive effect on our body. You don’t have to be funny, you don’t even have to have a good sense of humour to benefit from this. As long as you laugh, even if you’re putting it on, your body will benefit from therapeutic laughter. Your stress levels will decrease and your feel good chemicals will easily float around in your insides.
When I was going through my worst times and I had decided to turn my life around, this was one of the first deliberate things I did. I got on to YouTube and watched every stand-up comedian I could find. I laughed my butt off every day. I watched as much comedy as I could and in my case I have the double benefit of watching comedians in English and also in Spanish, so I had double the supply of comedy at my finger tips.
If you can spare even half an hour a day watching something funny and laughing non stop, then please do it. It will crack you up, your stomach and ribs will hurt, your eyes will cry but it’ll feel good and your body will thank you for it. Therapeutic laughter really does work, I say this from experience because it worked wonders for me.