The power of laughter

When we laugh, three main chemicals are released in the brain: dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins. (Photos: Envato Elements)
Dr Hunter “Patch” Adams is an American physician who took an unconventional approach to practicing medicine. From his early years he experienced the harshness and brutality in life. After three attempts at taking life own life, he decided to begin a revolution. He enrolled in the Medical College of Virginia during which he developed his unique style of treating patients. اضافة اعلان

Adams believed that traditional medical practice should be accompanied by love, humor, and creativity. He would often dress as a clown in an attempt to cheer up his patients and make them laugh. In the late 1960s and 1970s, this was considered bizarre and unconventional, but since then, numerous studies have been published that suggest humor and laughter have a serious role in health and wellness.

How does laughing heal?

Our brain is a huge bundle of nerves that communicates with itself and the rest of the body using electrical impulses and biochemical messengers. With a certain combination of different messengers, we are able to feel and experience a wide range of emotions. Similarly, experiencing certain emotions can increase the release of specific messengers that can have a broad effect on the body and mind.

When we laugh, three main chemicals are released: dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins. Dopamine if often referred to as the “feel good” chemical, as it interacts with the pleasure center of the brain. Its release gives a slight euphoric effect and essentially acts as a natural high. It is also said to improve learning, motivation, and attention.

Oxytocin is considered the “love hormone” and “bonding chemical” as it plays an important role in human behavior. This ultimately results in increased bonding, trust, and empathy for others. Endorphins act as our body’s natural painkillers. They also work on the pleasure center of the brain and can treat pain similar to morphine.
They also work on the pleasure center of the brain and can treat pain similar to morphine.

Laughing and physical pain

Many studies have been done on the effects of laughter and humor in the setting of medicine. In 1996, a study focused on patients who had recently undergone surgery and were recovering. They found that those who watched comedy movies had reduced intensity of lamentations, as well as lesser need for pain medication. The main reason for this is the release of endorphins, which are largely underestimated as a pain killer option.

By laughing for just a few minutes beforehand, we are able to endure approximately 15 percent more pain. Currently, it is standard practice to use opioid-based analgesics (pain killers) such as morphine and oxycodone. Although these medications are excellent analgesics, they are associated with many side effects and may induce abuse and addiction. The duration of endorphins are not as long lasting as opioid medication, but when used in conjunction with each another, fewer analgesics are needed to produce the same effect.

Laughing and health

Laughing, humor, and a general positive outlook are associated with numerous health benefits. Laughing helps reduce muscle tension throughout the body and leaves them relaxed for up to 45 minutes.

Laughter also has a great cardioprotective role in health by improving the function of blood vessels, increase blood flow and circulation, and lowers blood pressure. Overall, this helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular complications such as heart attacks. Additionally, laughing helps improve your immune system by increasing the release of immune system components such as immunoglobulins A and E. Furthermore, laughter has been studied in many people with certain diseases and has been associated with improved control of diseases such as COPD, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Laughing and emotions

Humor and laughter also have many positive effects on emotions and mental health. Due to the release of dopamine, there is positive improvement in memory, learning, attention, and motivation. Similarly, the euphoric effects of dopamine help counteract many negative emotions.

Laughing can help reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. A naturally occurring messenger in the body known as cortisol serves an important role in the body, but it is also the primary stress hormone. Laughing helps reduce levels of cortisol which, in turn, reduces the amount of perceived stress as well as improves the immune system.
Due to the release of dopamine, there is positive improvement in memory, learning, attention, and motivation.
Humor and comedy often work by highlighting absurdities in life or exaggerating mundane aspects. This shift in perspective can help when dealing with situations. It helps create a psychological distance which is useful in situations that are overwhelming or cause conflict.

Laughing and social wellness

Humans are social by nature. Finding humorous topics that are shared with others helps form new bonds with others. It can also be an effective means to resolve resentments, disagreements, and conflicts. Furthermore, humor and laughter can have a positive effect at individual level. Humor enables you to be more spontaneous and releases your inhibitions by lessening the fears in your head.

How to improve your humor

Humor is a natural aspect of life, and we use it constantly to cope. However, instead of humor being reactive, we can become proactive in making humor. Smiling is the first step to laughing. By practicing smile, you become more inviting to others, which opens up opportunities for humor. Additionally, smiling helps release the chemicals that put you in a better mood.

Although certain types of humor may seem bleak, all humor starts from a place of appreciation. By being appreciative of the life around you and practicing mindful awareness, you will become more receptive to humor.

People who are happy and in a good mood often want to share it in order to prolong their feeling and also feed off the enjoyment they get from it. The next time you are at work or school and see a group of acquaintances laughing, see about joining in. More often than not, it will be a positive experience and in the future they would also be more likely to involve you.

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