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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Laughter: The Best Medicine

Laughing is a delightful distraction and mood booster, especially when we are ailing or feeling blue. Then there’s the old adage about its being the best medicine, and many of us have wondered about its true impact on our wellbeing. In the interest of finding this out, health professionals have been studying its medicinal effects for years.

There is a growing body of research indicating that a good giggle may improve immune function, lower blood pressure, and reduce stress and depression. Despite the fact that there are relatively few long-term studies, the findings are compelling.

According to Michael Miller, Cardiologist and professor at the University of Maryland’s School of Medicine, the clinical evidence is extremely positive. “There is a potential upside, in terms of vascular benefits and overall health,” he explains. “These findings certainly support laughter as a reasonable prescription for heart health, and health in general, especially since there is no downside.”

There is also prior research that strongly suggests that people who laugh need less pain medication post-surgery. Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary anthropologist claims, “If laughter triggers endorphin activation, then it may have direct health benefits because there is a possibility that endorphins help to ‘tune’ the immune system.” Think: cool tune-up for our bodies.

Perhaps the major benefits of laughter stem from our playful interactions with our friends, family, and lovers--good, old-fashioned, fun that benefits all of us.

You may want to read the October 24, 2011 article in The Washington Post by Carolyn Butler, “Laughing May Help Ease Blood Pressure, Boost Mood and Enrich Health in Other Ways.”

~Laraine Jablon

Laraine Jablon, BA, MA, is a writer specializing in social and health concerns of seniors. She is based in Nesconset, New York, and welcomes your thoughts.