Laughter Medicine: Tickle Me Healthy
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Most of us have heard the old adage, “Laughter is the Best Medicine.” WE can vouch for this after watching, re-watching, and re-rewatching our favorite comedies and stand up comedians. Comedy has been our go-to medicine when we are stressed, recovering from an injury like Zuri’s recent reconstructive hand surgery, or when we need to laugh off a moment of dealing with negative people. Did you know that Zuri has in her daily must list a line that says “must partake in 15 mins of laughter”?
Mike’s favorite comedic scene in a movie is from Wanderlust when Paul Rudd’s character asks his comune cohabitant how his car ended up in the pond and the response, played by Jordan Peele clad in a pair of overalls answers. Watch this clip here.
We use laughter in the same way we’d use a quick Tabata workout or a yoga stretch. Laughter changes our state if we are in a funky mood or have to do a task we are not excited about. Before Zuri has to manage a conference call with ten people, she makes sure to get in some good laughter beforehand. She prefers Goat Videos like this one. Once she gets her chuckles in, she’s good to go. Mike will instinctively pull up a funny YouTube video, like top fails, the moment the stress spot in his back acts up, (the one that radiates pain up his neck and down his arm) and within 20 minutes of deep belly laughs, he is once again ready to take on the world.
So, WE decided to look into the science behind laughter’s ability to heal and what we found was hilariously simple. After some research, we came across a quote in an article found in the Journal of Research in Medical and Dental Science. The article focused on the beneficial effects of humor on patients being treated for kidney disease.
Laughter Reduces Blood Pressure
Research has shown that humor can reduce blood pressure, acute pain, chronic pain, stress hormones, raise self-esteem, decrease depression and increase enkephalin (which is a naturally occurring peptide known for its painkilling effects) and increase endorphin (another naturally occurring peptide known for its pleasurable effects).
The article goes pretty deep into the science rabbit hole, so let’s back up a bit and focus on just the quote, breaking it down into smaller bites.
- Humor can reduce blood pressure, which is the cardiovascular system.
- Humor can reduce acute and chronic pain, which is the nervous system
- Humor can reduce stress hormones, which is the endocrine system
- Humor can raise self-esteem, which is a by-product of homeostasis, which affects the before mentioned systems as well as the muscular-skeletal system, the respiratory system, the reproductive system, and the gastrointestinal system.
Laughter Boosts The Respiratory System
Out of all the systems in the body, the respiratory system is the easiest system to manipulate. We do it every time we breathe. Well, laughing manipulates one system, which helps to bring balance to the other systems. More laughter = more oxygen. “Laughter helps to provide longer exhalations, thus ridding the lungs of residual air and enriching the blood with ample supplies of oxygen, the lifeline of our system.”
Speaking of good deep breathing, the important component of healthy breaths and oxygen is making sure you’re breathing in clean air. We’ve talked about this in-depth on our site and in other pods but basically poor indoor air quality is the new tobacco and to keep our indoor air clean of harmful air particles, viruses, mold spores, remove trapped pollutants, and support a healthy immune system you need an air purifier. Everyone needs one, and we explain the science of why right here. Our partner for air purification systems is Intellipure. Because it is the most effective air cleaner on the market. Intellipure machines are the only air cleaners on the market that address all 3 pollutant categories. Their patented Disinfecting Filtration System (DFS) technology uses a high-energy grid, which prevents anything from being able to live or grow inside the filter. So basically it’s like Egon from ghostbusters! Watch this seven-second clip of humor.
But, getting back to Intellipure, the DFS technology allows them to capture and destroy 99.99% of all particles down to 0.007 micron in size- that’s 40 TIMES better than HEPA filtration! You can get 10% off using our link and code Zuri. Because we want you to laugh and get good clean air into your body at all times.
Laughter Can Decrease Depression And Anxiety
Let’s go back to the quote where it states that humor can decrease depression and anxiety. Well, research has shown that laughing reverses the levels of stress-making hormones found in the blood. Laughing decreases levels of cortisol and epinephrine while increasing norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin.
Laughter Can Help With IBS
During a 2017 study, 60 patients were selected who suffer from IBS. IBS, short for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, is the most common gastrointestinal disorder affecting between 25 and 45 million Americans. Studies show that the majority of IBS sufferers also suffer from anxiety and depression. Out of these 60 IBS patients, they had 20 practice laughter yoga, 20 were given anti-anxiety medication, and 20 were part of the control group. After the experiment, the researchers noted that those who practiced laughter yoga had a better result than those who took the anti-anxiety medication.
Laughter Is Free Medicine
The significance of this finding rests in the fact that the annual costs associated with major depression in the United States are an estimated $44 to $55 billion. The last time I checked, pulling up and watching funny YouTube videos cost nothing. Let’s try that here with a Jim Breur classic that was turned into a cartoon about mixing your drinks.
Laughter Is A Pain Killer
Humor can increase enkephalin which is your brain’s natural pain killer. Laughing helps to regulate the neuroendocrine-immune system that could be out of balance due to long term stress and pain. Researchers took two groups, one group suffered from Rheumatoid Arthritis, and the other group did not. After measuring baselines, they had each group experience a hearty laugh, a deep emotional cry, and general anesthesia. Afterward, they measured each group and found that after a hearty laugh, those with RA were better able to regulate their neuroendocrine-immune system.
Laughing can increase endorphins which is your brain’s happy chemical. Researchers took 12 healthy males. They had them spend 30 min alone in a testing room and afterward, each took a baseline PET (Positron emission tomography) scan. They then put them all together in a room and had them watch 30-minutes of comedy. They took a follow-up PET and revealed that social laughter increased pleasurable sensations and triggered the release of the body’s natural opioid endorphin which makes you feel damn good.
Humor Can Increase Cardiac Output
Researchers are now looking at our veins not as tubes that conduct our blood, but as a system that is affected by the chemical content they carry, and by the body tissue that surrounds the vein. One such researcher goes on to say that, “It is appropriate in many ways to consider the human vascular tree as another functional endocrine gland.” So, simply put, our veins can dilate or constrict, in reaction to certain chemicals produced by the body.
Laughing helps to produce a chemical that affects what is called FMD (flow-mediated vasodilation) which is a factor that affects the ability of the heart and veins to circulate various nutrients throughout the body. Blood flow can significantly change the condition of our health.
Scientists conducted an experiment where they took a group of volunteers and split them up into two groups. The first group watched a Saturday Night Live skit, and the other watched the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan, which if you have not seen it, it is gut epically wrenching. The study found that the group who watched comedy had a 22% increase in baseline FMD, whereas the group who watched the violent war movie had a 35% reduction in baseline FMD.
Is Fake Laughing Just As Powerful?
We found that fake laughing almost always leads to real laughter and can stimulate the brain to recall funny memories of real-life events or movie quotes, and just like that, you are genuinely laughing. Because laughing is contagious, if you fake laugh and others around you hear it, they too will laugh. Once they laugh, you end up also laughing. Let’s try that here.
What does this all mean?
Our body has a natural system built in to keep itself healthy. Our bodies are designed for balance, also known as homeostasis. With this balance, we can sit in meditation for long periods of time, or pull an all-nighter to get an important project done. Unfortunately, society places such a high demand for success, that oftentimes we are pulling the all-nighters, and dismissing the much-needed meditation. Although our bodies are designed to deal with stressful situations to keep us safe, they are not designed to deal with stressful lifestyles. So, when one of our systems is compromised, such as our endocrine system, also known as our chemical factory, all of our systems are thrown out of whack.
Why Isn’t Laughter Prescribed By Doctors?
We are conditioned to live in a constant state of imbalance. It is normal for us to overwork ourselves, which then accumulates stress in the body, which causes us to develop acute or chronic discomfort, pain or illness, and then to deal with whatever symptom that comes from stress, we medicate. If you currently suffer from any acute or chronic illness or pain, make sure that laughter is on the list of medications because it’s unlikely that it will be something your doctor has prescribed. If you don’t suffer from acute or chronic illness or pain, laughter should be the on the list of preventative practices that you have incorporated into your life to be and stay healthy
Laughter Boosts Self-Esteem & Nurture’s Relationships
Now, let’s circle back to how laughter boosts self-esteem. Well, just being in homeostasis within our bodies isn’t enough to be happy. Right? We also need to be connected. The late comedian Victor Borge said it best, “ Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”
Researchers at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, conducted a series of studies on the effects of laughter on relationships, both professional and intimate. They found that laughter between people signaled that they share similar views which boosts connection and creates a source of comradery.
For intimate relationships, they found that laughing together increases the number of positive emotions and decreases the number of negative emotions shared between couples.
Here Are A Couple More Facts To Ponder:
- We have just as much difficulty laughing on command as we do crying on command, but we tend to laugh when someone close to us is laughing, and we tend to cry when someone close to us is crying.
- Laughing is a babies second form of communication, second to crying
- Laughing is the body’s physical response to sudden pleasure like tickling and crying is your body’s response to sudden pain like stepping on your kid’s leggo.
- Laughing and crying both produce tears, involuntary abdominal contractions, and can bridge emotional divides.
If you’re someone that needs some high quality, low-cost medicine right now, use laughter to heal yourself. Even if you feel great, we challenge you to incorporate laughter into your daily healthy prevention habits. We can all get too serious and take ourselves too seriously as well. Instead, let’s all laugh more, love more, and enjoy this crazy life experience. With all that we now know about laughter let’s also remember that where focus goes energy flows. So, let’s focus on laughing more. There’s a great book from Peter McWilliams called, You Can’t Afford The Luxury Of A Negative Thought. He has a great line which says: “Make a list of the things you enjoy doing. Do them often. Actively pursuing happiness is pursuing health.” You can click the book cover to buy it on Amazon. It’s one you need to have in your library!
Do you have a comedy to share or some laughter science we missed? Leave us a comment.