In response, Cousins undertook a regime that included lots of vitamin C and positive emotions – like daily belly laughs that caused watching TV shows such as The Three Stooges. To the surprise of many physicians, he made a complete recovery, published a book about the experience (the bestselling Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient: Reflections on Healing and Regeneration, 1979) and in the process provided a wellspring of support for the notion that laughter makes for great medicine.
Now, several decades later, we are still debating the question of whether humour might be a blessing to our health and to our physical fitness.
Miller was a researcher on a study reported at the American Heart Association’s annual scientific sessions a couple of years back that linked laughter and an energetic sense of humour with heart health. Cardiologists at the medical care facility found that people with heart disease were 40% less likely to laugh at certain situations than subjects the exact same age without heart disease.
The former were less likely to comprehend humour or use it to get out of uncomfortable situations, the investigators found. They were angrier and more hostile. Needless to say, some of this may be a response to their illness; you would not expect sick people to be as jolly as healthy folks. But 40 percent is a massive difference, more than you may attribute to that variable.
Another study provided further support for the idea of bliss as a beneficial mental and bodily activity. UCLA researchers had 21 healthy children put one hand in cold water while they watched funny videos. The outcome? The kids who laughed were able to endure the pain of cold water longer than those who did not. Researchers also found that the laughing children had reduced levels of cortisol, a hormone that indicates stress.
And given that we have seen no studies indicating any negative effects of a snigger, chuckle or guffaw, it’s hard to argue against the concept that a small amount of funny helps improve physical and mental well-being.
Just as we integrate other heart-healthy activities into our everyday lives, we might do the same with bliss, suggest Miller. “The ability to laugh – either naturally or as a learned behaviour – may have significant implications in societies where heart disease is still the No.1 killer,” he notes.
Humour will not replace exercise in the health equation, of course, but who would not sometimes prefer a episode of Friends into a gruelling cardio session? And now, humour is taken more seriously as a health factor than it was taken previously. Hundreds of academics belong to the International Society for Humour Studies.
Although the health benefits of laughter have yet to be demonstrated scientifically, laughter can help us beat stress, which contributes to heart issues, among other maladies. We may, after all, need a daily dose of laughter together with our workout and lean diets. So be sure to split at least a few times a day. It can not hurt, and it may very well help. No joke.
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