How many times have you heard it said that laughter is the best medicine? I can certainly remember this phrase being said when I was a child. There is some Science in Medicine (more applied than pure), so where is the scientific evidence for this claim? Well after all this time, someone has decided to carry out a study. Apparently when we laugh, we exercise our muscles, get blood flowing, decrease our blood pressure and stress hormones, improve sleep patterns and boost our immune system. It’s a new area of research known as ‘Psychoneuroimmunology’ – the study of how emotions affect our nervous and immune systems. It’s still a relatively new area of research, but the insights are promising.
The study looked at 20 healthy older adults in their 60s and 70s, measuring their stress levels and short-term memory. One group was asked to sit silently, not talking or reading and not using their mobile phones or tablet devices. The other group watched funny video clips (personally I would have advised they watched the English football team 🙂 )
After 20 minutes, the participants gave saliva samples and took a short memory test. While both groups performed better after the break than before, the “laughter group” performed significantly better when it came to memory recall. Participants who viewed the funny videos had much higher improvement in recall abilities, 43.6 percent, compared with 20.3 percent in the “non-laughter” group. The laughter group showed considerably lower levels of cortisol after watching the videos. Cortisol is a key stress hormone measured via saliva. The non-laughter group’s cortisol levels decreased just slightly.
Re the amusing picture, I received this in the form of a get well card after major surgery in 2010. This person clearly understood my sense of humour and I hope you had a good laugh too. My surgeon’s secretary also thought it was funny and had her cortisol levels reduced 🙂 Laughter helps you feel both physically and emotionally healthy and could possibly be as good for you as taking a vitamin, who knows? Furthermore it’s prescription free! More research is clearly still needed, but why not start to include laughter as part of your health regime? Read my blog for starters 🙂
Thanks for reading
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