I recently read a number of articles in Science Daily on the benefits of laughter in maintaining your health and preventing diseases. Laughing makes you feel better and even a yoga class using laughter has been developed (hasya yoga).
What are the health benefits of laughter? Laughter helps to reduce stress; enhance the immune system; strengthen cardiovascular functions; oxygenate the body by boosting the respiratory system; improve circulation; tone muscles and help with digestion and constipation (Science Daily May 6, 2008).
How did this connection between laughter and health occur? In the 1970s, Norman Cousins, a writer and magazine editor was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. He realized that if stress could worsen his condition, then having positive emotions would have the effect of improving his health. Working with his physician, he watched video comedies and television shows like Candid Camera. His disease went into remission Cousins wrote a scientific paper for the New England Journal of Medicine and also a bestseller on his experience.
As a result of Cousins’ finding, a number of medical researchers started to examine the physical changes in the body due to positive emotions and laughter. Beginning in the 1980s, Dr. Lee Berk and his colleagues (Science Daily April 17, 2009) started to measure hormones. They found that people who watched video comedies had elevated levels of hormones associated with moods and immunity. They also found in their studies that positive laughter reduced the levels of stress hormones that can be detrimental to the immune system at high levels. Another interesting finding was in the area of diabetes. Dr. Berk and other researchers found that good laughter and a positive mood in diabetic patients caused increased levels of good cholesterol, lower inflammation. and lower stress levels. The researchers have also suggested that these positive emotions may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease associated with diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
On Friday night the DH and I went with friends to see Martin Short perform in person at a local venue. I haven’t laughed with such vigor in a long time. My stomach hurt from laughing so much. I do like to laugh and enjoy comedies, now I have scientific reason to keep on watching some of the crazy comedy shows on television.