Larry Banman: Laughter really is the best medicine
April 21, 2008
It feels good to laugh.
Inherently, we believe that to be true and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence about having a “good” laugh. Even laughing until it hurts is considered a good thing.
Many of us heard from our mothers that frowning takes more facial muscles than smiling.
Laughing is purported to be a good aid for digestion.
Even when confronted with obstacles in our lives, we were told to “grin and bear it.”
Gelotology is the study of humor and laughter, and its effects on the human body. It is also the psychological and physiological study of laughter. According to Wikipedia, research shows that laughing helps protect the heart. Although studies are not sure why laughing protects the heart, the studies do explain that mental stress impairs the endothelium, which is the protective barrier lining a person’s blood vessels.
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Psychologist Steve Sultanoff, Ph. D., who is the president of the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor, says laughter has been shown to increase tolerance of pain and boost the body’s production of infection-fighting antibodies, which can help prevent hardening of the arteries and subsequent conditions caused thereby such as angina, heart attacks or strokes.
Sultanoff added that research shows that distressing emotions lead to heart disease. It is shown that people who are “chronically angry and hostile have a greater likelihood for heart attack. People who “live in anxious, stressed out lifestyles have greater blockages of their coronary arteries”, and people who are “chronically depressed have a two times greater chance of heart disease.”
A study in Japan shows that laughter lowers blood sugar after a meal. Keiko Hayashi, Ph. D., R.N, of the University of Tsukuba in Ibaraki, Japan, and his team performed a study of 19 people with Type 2 diabetes. They collected the patients’ blood before and two hours after a meal. The patients attended a boring 40-minute lecture after dinner on the first night of the study. On the second night, the patients attend a 40-minute comedy show. The patients’ blood sugar went up after the comedy show, but much less than it did after the lecture. The study found that even when patients without diabetes did the same testing, a similar result was found. Scientists conclude that laughter is good for people with diabetes. They suggest that ‘chemical messengers made during laughter may help the body compensate for the disease.”
Studies at the University of Maryland found that when a group of people were shown a comedy, after the screening their blood vessels performed normally, whereas when they watched a drama, after the screening their blood vessels tended to tense up and restricted the blood flow.
It has been estimated by scientists that laughing 100 times equals the same physical exertion as a 10-minute workout on a rowing machine or 15 minutes on a stationary exercise bike. Laughing works out the diaphragm, abdominal, respiratory, facial, leg, and back muscles. However, William Fry, a pioneer on laughter research, in an article for WebMD was said to indicate that it “took ten minutes on a rowing machine for his heart rate to reach the level it would after just one minute of hearty laughter.”
I refer to all of these things because I knew I felt better after enjoying the comedy team, Chicken Lips, at the West Grand Community Educational Foundation banquet this past Saturday night. I laughed like I hadn’t laughed in a long time. The show was at lot like the popular television show, “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”
The improvisational skills of the three members of the cast were incredible. I was also impressed with how well our local audience participated and got into the spirit of the evening. I laughed until my face ached and my sides hurt. I laughed so hard, I haven’t been able to wipe the smile off of my face. The comedy was all family appropriate. It was the kind of show you could sit through comfortably with both your five-year old daughter and your grandmother. It was refreshing to see comedy that didn’t resort to insults or foul language to gain laughs. I have always maintained that good comedy doesn’t need to be foul to be funny.
Thank you West Grand Community Educational Foundation for bringing this comedy show to town. The evening was well worth the price of admission. And, it is nice to know, I am healthier for the experience.
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