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Laughter is important. This is a remastered version of one of my early blog posts. It centred on a ‘get-well’ card I received recuperating in hospital after my first major surgery. The person who sent it knew I had a sense of humour, and it did make me smile. My surgeon’s secretary came to visit me, and I invited her to check out my cards……. she fell about on the floor laughing! That caused me to laugh (carefully!). All the nurses looking after me had a good laugh too!
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.
But it’s much older than the 1960’s, apparently humour was introduced as a viable medical option in the 1300s, when Henri de Mondeville started treating his patients post-surgery by making them laugh. It was shown to be remarkably effective. Reports from the time period show Mondeville’s patients getting better sleep and being in less pain.
In modern usage however, this saying isn’t often taken in a literal sense. Usually, the phrase is meant to say that a positive mindset and approach to life can make handling stress easier and more manageable.
Actually, there is some modern science in Medicine (more applied than pure), so where is the scientific evidence for this claim? 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.
Eight studies (315 participants; mean age 38.6) met our inclusion criteria; four were RCTs and four were quasi-experiment studies. Five studies evaluated the impact of watching a humour/comedy video, two studies evaluating laughter sessions administered by a trained laughter therapist, and one study evaluating a self-administered laughter program. Pooling these data showed a significant reduction in cortisol levels by 31.9% (95%CI -47.7% to -16.3%) induced by laughter intervention compared to control group with no evidence of publication bias (P = 0.66). Sensitivity analyses demonstrated that even a single laughter session induced a significant reduction of 36.7% in cortisol (95%CI -52.5% to -20.8%). In addition, analyses including the four RCTs reinforced these results by demonstrating a significant reduction in cortisol levels promoted by laughter as compared to the placebo arm [-37.2% (95%CI -56.3% to -18.1%)].
Current evidence demonstrates that spontaneous laughter is associated with greater reduction in cortisol levels as compared with usual activities, suggesting laughter as a potential adjunctive medical therapy to improve well-being. Click here.
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! And if you’re on Facebook, like this page for more laughs too.
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I am not a doctor or any form of medical professional, practitioner or counsellor. None of the information on my website, or linked to my website(s), or conveyed by me on any social media or presentation, should be interpreted as medical advice given or advised by me.
Neither should any post or comment made by a follower or member of my private group be assumed to be medical advice, even if that person is a healthcare professional.
Please also note that mention of a clinical service, trial/study or therapy does not constitute an endorsement of that service, trial/study or therapy by Ronny Allan, the information is provided for education and awareness purposes and/or related to Ronny Allan’s own patient experience. This element of the disclaimer includes any complementary medicine, non-prescription over the counter drugs and supplements such as vitamins and minerals.
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