May 08, 2016

Laughter is the best medicine

By Dr. Belinda Chan, D.C.

Laughter is good for you. Even when indulged on, it’s free of side effects- the worst that can happen is you end up curled up in a corner racked with the giggles, trying very hard to relax your abdominals.

But if you want the health benefits associated with laughing, you can’t just laugh, you have to engage in mirthful laughter. That is laughter most commonly associated with humour.

Dr. Michael Miller and Dr. William Fry, pioneers in laughter research, have studied the association between emotion and the cardiovascular system. They discovered that it would take about 10 minutes on a rowing machine for one’s heart rate to reach the level it would after 1 minute of “hearty” laughter!

In 1996, an article was published in the Humor and Health Journal by Dr. Lee Berk and Dr. Stanley Tan which found mirthful laughter to:

  1. Optimize hormones in the endocrine system. This means laughter helps decrease the levels of cortisol and epinephrine in your body, which leads to stress reduction.
  2. Boosts your immune system by increasing the production of antibodies and by increasing the activation of T-cells and Natural Killer Cells (your body’s protective cells).

  3. Enhances your mood and makes you and others around you feel good.

  4. Lowers bad cholesterol, and raises good cholesterol.

  5. Lowers systolic blood pressure.

Basically, repetitious mirthful laughter causes your body to respond in a way similar to moderate physical exercise. So the next time your friends tell you to join them in the gym, what do you do.

Laugh. Mirthfully.