We all know that laughter makes us feel good and we enjoy it. Most of us didn’t know why until now. When we laugh, our breathing quickens, which exercises the diaphragm, neck, stomach, face and shoulders. Laughter increases the amount of oxygen in the blood, which not only helps healing and improves circulation, it also expands the blood vessels close to the skin's surface. This is why people get red in the face when they laugh. It can also lower the heart rate, dilate the arteries, stimulate the appetite and burn up calories. Professor William Fry at Stanford University found that 100 laughs are equal to a ten-minute aerobic workout on a rowing machine. Medically speaking, this is why a good laugh is good for you. As we age we become more serious about life. A preschooler laughs on average 400 times a day, but by the time we are an adult we are only laughing an average of 15 times a day!
Richard Davidson, professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin in Madison performed many studies on laughter. He hooked people up to EEG (electroencephalograph) machines, which measure brain wave activity, and then showed them funny movies. When people laughed or smiled, it made the left hemisphere of the brain surge with electrical activity. He found that intentionally producing smiles and laughter moves brain activity toward spontaneous happiness.
Arnie Cann, professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina, revealed that humor has a positive result in preventing stress. Cann did a study on depressive patients where he divided them into two groups and showed each group videos for 3 weeks. The group that watched comedy videos had a greater improvement than the group that watched videos that had no humor involved. He also found that people with ulcers frown more than people without ulcers.
When we laugh we stimulate the body’s natural painkillers and endorphins or “feel good” boosters, which aid in reducing stress and healing the body. Laughter stimulates the body's natural painkillers and endorphins we know as “feel good” boosters, which aid in reducing stress and healing the body. When Norman Cousins was diagnosed with the debilitating illness ankylospondylitis, (calcification of the vertebrae of the spine) the doctors told him they could no longer help him and that he would live in excruciating pain before he died. Cousins checked into a hotel room and hired every funny movie he could find: The Marx Brothers, Airplane and The Three Stooges, etc. He watched and re-watched them over and over, laughing as hard and loud as he could. After six months of this self-inflicted laughter therapy, the doctors were amazed to find that his illness had been completely cured - the disease was gone! This amazing outcome led to the publishing of Cousins' book, Anatomy of an Illness, and the start of massive research into the function of endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals released from the brain when you laugh. They have a similar chemical composition to morphine and heroin and have a tranquilizing effect on the body, while building the immune system. This explains why happy people rarely get sick and miserable but complaining people often seem to be ill.
In the 1980s, several American hospitals introduced the concept of the 'Laughter Room'. The hospitals based these rooms on Norman Cousins' background and laughter research performed by Dr. Patch Adams. A room was allocated and filled with joke books, comedy films and humorous tapes, comedians and clowns made regular visits to the room as well. Patients spent from 30 to 60-minutes in the room each day. Adding the room created remarkable results - a drastic improvement in patient health was achieved in addition to a shorter average hospitalization time per patient. The number of painkillers required by patients in pain also decreased, and those patients became easier to deal with. So I guess you could say, Laughter is the best medicine, because he who laughs, lasts…