Laughter..the best medicine! Dr. Zarmina Munir, Bradford 2008
FACT: Medical studies demonstrate that the natural medicine of humour and the positive emotions it generates: • boosts the immune system • stabilizes blood pressure • massages inner organs • stimulates circulation • increase flow of oxygen to muscles • ...thereby dramatically decreasing tension!
Laughter that is based on caring and empathy also: • creates bonds between people; • is nourishing; • helps people cope with difficult situations; • is supportive; • gives people cognitive control; and • provides a diversion.
Humour therapy…anyone heard of it? Its actually used in medicine!.....seriously…I’m not making this up!
What is it? • The use of humour for the relief of physical or emotional pain and stress. Its used as a complementary method to promote health and cope with illness. What is it used for? • Humour therapy is generally used to improve quality of life, provide some pain relief, encourage relaxation, and reduce stress. Being able to find humour in life can be helpful when dealing with cancer/terminal disease. What does it involve? Many hospitals and treatment centres (in the USA) have set up special rooms where humorous materials, and sometimes people, are placed to help make people laugh. Materials commonly used include movies, audio and videotapes, books, games, and puzzles. Many hospitals use volunteers who visit patients for the purpose of providing opportunities for laughter. A 1999 survey found that about 1 in 5 National Cancer Institute-designated treatment centres offered humour therapy(in the US)
What is the evidence? Available scientific evidence does not support humour as an effective treatment for cancer or any other disease; however, laughter has many benefits, including positive physical changes and an overall sense of well being. The healing power of humour has been long been recognized but only in the past few years has it been supported by medical science. Everyone knows that 'laughter is the best medicine', and now international research has found real physiological and psychological benefits to patients. The findings show that humour: • Has a positive effect on the cardiovascular and respiratory system, similar to exercise • Some studies have shown an increase in endorphin levels. This enhances a feeling of well- being and helps in pain reduction. • The immune system is improved because laughter increases the level of N-K (natural killer) cells,IgA, IgG, IgM and plasma cytokine gamma interferon. • The levels of the body’s major stress hormone – cortisol – are reduced not only during the time of laughter but for many hours after. • Another study found that neuroendocrine and stress-related hormones decreased during episodes of laughter. These findings provide support for the claim that humor can relieve stress.
RESEARCH FINDINGS • Norman Cousins (long time editor of Saturday review in USA) was the first person in recent times to draw attention to the health benefits of humour. This was from his own experience of illness. • William Fry (psychiatrist and professor emeritus from the Stanford University School of Medicine) is another that has contributed greatly to the physiological research on humour. Berk and Tan have also done many of the studies on which claims for the physiological benefits of laughter are made.
Effect on Pain: • Norman Cousins found humour and laughter relieved the pain of his ankylosing spondylitis. In 1969 he collaborated with his physician Dr Hitzig and watched funny films and read humorous books and found that 10 minutes of laughter gave him 2 hours of pain free sleep. There was physiological evidence in his lower ESR . The reduction not only held, but was cumulative. He popularised the benefits of laughter in his books Anatomy of an Illness and Head First: The Biology of Hope. • His theory that positive emotions had a positive effect on health lead to modern research. Based at UCLA Medical School, he established the Humour Research Task Force to co-ordinate and support world wide clinical research on humour. • In 1928 Dr James Walsh noted in his book Laughter and Health that laughter reduced the pain after surgery and promoted wound healing. • Women with painful muscle disorders got significant pain relief after a course of humour therapy. (L. Ljungdahl Journal of the American Medical Association 1989) • Young girls with burns were shown cartoons during very painful hydrotherapy. Their perception of pain was reduced. The study was done by ML Kelly and published in the Journal of Applied Behaviour Analysis 1984)
CARDIOVASCULAR Effects: • Laughter, like exercise, increases the heart rate. William Fry in 1971 first demonstrated that laughter increases the heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen consumption, and works the muscles in the face and stomach. Shortly after, these levels drop, providing a relaxation response. STRESS • Prolonged stress creates unhealthy physiological changes. Stress causes the adrenal glands to release cortico steroids and high levels have an immunosuppressive effect. Laughter is an antidote. Berk, Tan, Fry et al reported this in Neuroendrocrine and stress hormone changes during mirthful laughter American Journal of the Medical Sciences. 298(6), 390-396.
Effect on the IMMUNE SYSTEM • Laughter stimulates the immune system. L. Berk, of Loma Linda University School of Medicine demonstrated that laughter • • lowers serum cortisol levels• increases the number of T-cells that have helper/suppressor receptors • increases the number & activity of natural killer cells • Other research supported these findings. • Blood of patients was analysed before, during and after watching a humorous video. The test found ´significant´ boost to immune function, including higher levels of anti-bodies and natural killer cells which are the body´s defence against aberrant cells such as cancer. Thi s study was done by Barry Bittman, neurologist & pioneer in psychoneuroimmunology (how emotions effect the immune system) • The positive effects of laughter on the immune system continued the next day - - - levels of Plasma Immunoglobulin, Plasma Cytokine Gamma Interferon and killer cells remained high 12 hours later. Berk /Tan published this study in Laughter & The Immune System: a serious approach
RESPIRATORY SYSTEM effects: • Dr David Garlick of University of NSW School of Physiology & Pharmacology studies the effects of laughter on the respiratory system. Abdominal movements were measured during funny videos and documentaries. Laughter was followed by a long sigh and a large intake of breath, leading to better respiratory movement.