No-nonsense humor? Fake it. The human brain is unable to distinguish spontaneous laughter from self-induced, so pretending to laugh can produce the same health related benefits as the real thing, According to a 2010 report in Alternative Therapies and Health and Medicine by Ramon Mora-Ripoli. Just listening to recorded laughter can evoke fits of giggles in subjects, according to research. In fact the person is 30 times as likely to laugh when someone else is around as when he or she is alone.

On the more physical side, researchers have documented that laughing changes the bodies very chemistry, raising hormones for happy feelings and lowering stress related hormones. In a one related recent trial involving 20 healthy older adults, half watched humorous videos, the other half sat silently for 20 minutes. All the participants then took a short memory test and their saliva was tested for stress hormones. The people who had watched the funny videos scored nearly twice as high on the recall test as those who have sat quietly, and they also showed lower levels of cortisol, the hormone responsible for triggering the bodies stress response.

Lower levels of stress hormones can’t have a wider range of benefits for the body. Stress is linked to higher blood pressure and a greater risk of heart disease, as well as increased levels of inflammation. Inflammation or overstimulation of the body’s immune response is associated with everything from arthritis to degenerative brain condition like Alzheimer’s.

Laughing may also do good things for the heart. Because laughing causes a change in the way you breathe, it forces the heart to pump a little faster and a little harder, which can dictate the blood vessels and in-place blood flow to the brain and body. Changes, according to researchers at the university of Maryland medical Center, are similar to improved flow that exercise causes.

What’s more, laughing may be a good way to lower pain. Watching comedy videos, for example, has been shown to decrease hospital patients’ is need for opioid pain killers. One Oxford University study, executed laboratories at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, subjective participants to two types of pain-tightening blood pressure cuff, frozen wine chilling sleeve placed around the arm-both before and after watching funny videos. The Oxford team concluded that there was a dose-related response to laughter: people who laughed more at the comedy felt less pain later.

Research out of Western Kentucky University has tied laughing to greater numbers and activity of killer cells, the immune system deploys to attack disease. In their conclusion, the study’s authors suggested that using humor to stimulate laughter could be an effective complementary therapy to decrease stress and improve killer cell activity in people viral illnesses or cancer period

But it’s important to remember that it’s hard to separate out laughter and it’s a effects on the body from other things that are going on. For example, laughter’s benefits to the immune system for its ability to reduce stress. Stress can lead to a drop in certain antibodies and immune cells, so if laughter can lower your stress hormones, it might indirectly contribute to a healthy immune system.

And laughing may have an analgesic affect simply by being a distraction; people watching a funny video or listening to a joke are less likely to be thinking about their pain-in the same way that someone having a conversation or singing or doing something else might feel less pain. Since people often laugh in the company of others, it’s hard to attribute the health effects-on stress hormones, fire the immune system and the light-solely to the active laughing. It’s possible, for example that those benefits are also related to the fact that social interaction and social connection can contribute to help your minds and bodies.

However it works, scientist stress that, like other human behaviors, laughter and the positive feelings it represents are not the be-all and end-all for health and well-being.” Some of the frenzy of her positive psychology can give the impression that we can just be happy all the time,” says Robert Waldinger, a Harvard psychiatrist hey Studies happiness.” But having a positive outlook is a transient thing, just like laughter. Quotation

Even if there isn’t the hard scientific proof for a prescription for laughter as medicine, researchers do agree that laughter is a rich experience that they are only just beginning to mine little more?

Quoted directly from “Curing What Ails You” by Alice Park, Time Magazine Special Edition, The Science of Laughter, p. 14-15, 2018.

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