Living well, eating well, moving well, THINKING WELL
A hearty laugh a day may keep the doctor away, say the findings of a study performed at the University Of Maryland School Of Medicine. In previous thinking well articles, we referenced research suggesting how negative emotions (nocebo effect) impact health. The researchers in this study took a different approach–they measured the affect of laughing on measurable physiological changes. They specifically looked at the ability of heart blood vessels to expand when a person watched funny movies. What they found was surprising–laughing increased blood flow as much as a 15- to 30-minute workout.
The ability of blood vessels to expand is known as vasodilation. Poor circulation (vasodilation) means that passageways may be restricted or blocked and blood flow may be cut off. This is the effect of high cholesterol levels and plaguing (arteriosclerosis). We talked a little about this previously in our eat right articles. The result is an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.
In the Maryland study, 20 healthy men and women watched clips of two movies–a violent battle scene from “Saving Private Ryan” or a humorous scene from a comedy such as “Kingpin.” Each participant’s vasodilation was measured prior to the movie and again afterward.
The results were surprising. Of the 20 participants who saw the stressful film, 14 had significantly reduced blood flow. However, after watching the funny film, 19 of the 20 volunteers had significantly increased blood flow. Specifically:
- Blood flow decreased by about 35 percent after experiencing stress
- Blood flow increased by 22 percent after laughing, which interestingly, is equivalent to what happens after a 15- to 30-minute workout
Past studies have found that hormones like adrenalin and cortisol, which are released when a person is stressed, may harm the body by suppressing the immune system and constricting blood vessels. Just as poor food choices can stimulate these hormones so can negative emotions. On the other hand, the researchers believe laughing causes the body to release beneficial chemicals called endorphins, which may counteract the effects of stress hormones and cause blood vessels to dilate. In a similar manner, laughing may also boost the immune system and reduce inflammation, which has also been shown to increase the risk of various health problems.
The Maryland study is not the first to suggest that humour has healthy benefits. There have been numerous other studies done in the past. Norman Cousins, Humanitarian, Journalist, Author, Professor of Medical Humanities at the University of California and the “father” of Vitamin C therapy, himself attributes the prolongation of his life to humour. Cousins himself had a crippling form of arthritis and heart disease. In his autobiography he describes how he developed a recovery program incorporating mega doses of Vitamin C, along with a positive attitude, love, faith, hope, and laughter induced by Marx Brothers films.
Children laugh approximately 80 to 100 times per day. By the time we reach adulthood, we laugh only 5-6 times per day. You only need to watch children to appreciate the relationship between humor and enjoying life. Children will laugh at anything! If you ask them, “what’s so funny,” they may say something like, “he looked at me!” says Barbara Bartlein, R.N., M.S.W., a motivational speaker and consultant.
Adults, on the other hand, feel they need a reason to laugh before doing so. What we need to do is be more like children (have we not heard this somewhere before?). And so, here I share a little joke. Hopefully it brings a little laughter into your day ….
The plane is on its way to Houston when a blonde in Economy Class gets up and moves to the First Class section and sits down. The flight attendant watches her do this and asks to see her ticket. She then tells the blonde that she paid for Economy and that she will have to sit in the back.
The blonde replies: “I’m blonde, I’m beautiful, I’m going to Houston, and I am staying right here!”
The flight attendant goes to the cockpit and tells the Captain and Co-Pilot that there is a blonde bimbo sitting in First Class that belongs in Economy and that she will not move back to her seat.
The Co-Pilot goes back to the blonde and tries to explain that because she only paid for Economy she will have to leave First Class and return to her seat.
The blonde replies, “I’m blonde, I’m beautiful, I’m going to Houston, and I am going to sit right here.”
The Co-Pilot returns to the cockpit and tells the Captain that he should have the police waiting when they land to arrest the blonde woman, as she won’t listen to reason.
The Captain says, “You say she’s blonde? I will handle this. I’m married to a blonde. I speak blonde.”
He goes back to the blonde, whispers in her ear, and she says, “Oh, I’m sorry,” and she gets up and moves back to her seat in the Economy section.
The flight attendant and Co-Pilot are amazed and ask him what he said to make her move without any fuss.
I told her, “First Class isn’t going to Houston.”
Until next week, laugh a little more!!!
Ps To all blondes out there, please don’t take offense. If it helps, replace blonde with “dumb chiropractor”.