Laughter stimulates the brain’s reward center which releases dopamine and then stimulates the frontal lobe and enhances thinking. Laughter also has anti-inflammatory effects. Also, a recent joint research review by Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina found that those with strong relationships were 50% likely to live longer. Laughter may be able to extend your lifespan another eight years, says a study. See, “Lab Times online: Editorial – Research Letter from Funny Norway — Can You Live Longer By Laughing Inwardly?”
According to the article, Sven Svebak, professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, has spent over 40 years trying to define and quantify “humor”. Recently, he claims to have found a clear link between humor and health (The International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine. 40:125-46). Furthermore, he states that the results from his study “are the first in history that say something about a sense of humor and health in a large population. And Svebak should know.
But U.S. humor shortens life says the study
From this perspective, you might guess at the surprise Svebak experienced upon reading the conclusions of a U.S. study: “Does childhood personality predict longevity?” which found that cheerful American children had shorter lives than their more sober contemporaries (J Pers Soc Psychol, 65(1):176-85). In this and two subsequent reports, Friedman and his colleagues took the results of a personality survey conducted around 1920 on 1,200 10-year-old Californian children and matched them to their subsequent age of death. The project had been initiated by Lewis Terman, a pioneer in intelligence research, and children had to score above 135 on an IQ test to participate.
Sense of humor and survival
Check out the USAToday.com article by Marilyn Elias, “Study links sense of humor, survival.” In the article, a 2007 study is mentioned that found that adults who have a sense of humor outlive those who don’t find life funny, and the survival edge is particularly large for people with cancer, according to Sven Svebak of the medical school at Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Also see, “Laughter Health Research | American School of Laughter Yoga.” Check out, “Sven Svebak | Norwegian University of Science and Technology” and the February 4, 2011 article “Lab Times online: Editorial – Research Letter from Funny Norway — Can You Live Longer By Laughing Inwardly?”
Svebak’s study of about 54,000 Norwegians, tracked for seven years, at the American Psychosomatic Society meeting explained how at the start, patients filled out questionnaires on how easily they found humor in real-life situations and how important a humorous perspective was. But the greater a role humor played in their lives, the greater their chances of surviving the seven years, Svebak says in the study. Adults who scored in the top one-quarter for humor appreciation were 35% more likely to be alive than those in the bottom quarter, he says. See, “Laughter and Longevity – Humor and laughter.”
In a subgroup of 2,015 who had a cancer diagnosis at the start, a great sense of humor cut someone’s chances of death by about 70% compared with adults with a poor sense of humor, Svebak explained in the study. In another study, one of the most important findings on the effects of laughter, particularly in later life, is its impact on inflammation, which plays a key role in a wide range of diseases, from arthritis to cancer, and which is a component of many age-related diseases that often cause disability. Anti-inflammatory effects of laughter was observed to last up to 12 hours after the laughter occurred, according to a study mentioned in the article, “Laughter and Longevity – Humor and laughter.”
How laughter works for health benefits
When you’re alone, laughter connects you with your own body’s blood vessel system and organs, such as heart rhythms to help improve the way your body works. Laughter in moderation is healthy, as long as you don’t laugh yourself into hysteria and over-stimulate your organs, especially if you have a health condition or defect that is exhausted by laughter.
Most people can laugh in moderation and laugh their way to better circulation and health in general say most studies on laughter going back a decade. What foods go best with laughter? Not a mouth full of popcorn. The food could explode out of your smiling mouth and all over everything else around you. The answer is the healthiest foods tailored to your body’s needs and not eating while laughing.
Laughter on radio news programs
The laughter news on the Dennis Prager radio show (KTKZ 1380) back on December 11, 2012 focused on a new study in the news claiming laughter may be able to extend your lifespan another eight years. Humor produces laughter. Laughter produces several positive effects on your physical, mental and emotional well-being such as helping to make your blood vessels more elastic and resilient. Laughter also connects people with sharing the uplifting joy. And laughter often comes with the element of surprise in an event, word play, or comedy.
Laughter as exercise
There’s laughter yoga, but who will start a program in laughter Tai Chi and Qi Gong for healing? Or a special laughter Qi Gong and Tai Chi for seniors or lunchtime walkers? Laughter doesn’t have to be in public when you suddenly meet strangers. Inward laughter also is healthy.
It’s less stressful when laughter takes place in private or among people with whom you feel comfortable, people not prone to sudden intermittent explosions of anger and among people who don’t tell you to wipe the smile off your face, or the situation is not funny, people who feel you’re not laughing with them but at them is not the right group to practice your laughter for health. In those situations, laugh when you’re alone in your room.
Find more reasons to laugh as an exercise or workout in private for health
Not only do you stand to increase the potential length of your life by finding reasons to laugh more in private, but you certainly increase the quality and enjoyment of your life, if you have a great sense of humor. Most people wonder whether laughter adds life to your years more than years to your life. It’s time to laugh at yourself. Also see, Laughing With Your Brain: Science Life. Check out the article, Laughter really is the best medicine. You might look up the American School of Laughter Yoga. See Laughter Yoga International.
Laughter is almost universal. It’s an expression that is seen across all human cultures. Babies begin to laugh within the first few months of life. Apes and even rats exhibit forms of laughter. The ubiquity of laughter suggests that it’s a behavior that dates far back in human cultural history.
Why did nature imprint the ability to laugh in human and ape genes? The answer is because it may extend the life span and relaxes the organs so they don’t have to work so hard to maintain a state of anxiety, fear, and loss of control over your immediate fate. Want to join a laughter organization? See, Laughter Organizations.
You can’t laugh and be anxious physiologically at the same moment
For some people with math anxiety, just thinking about math can take the laughter right out of your diaphragm. See the November 5, 2012 Los Angeles Times article by Karen Kaplan, “Just thinking about math can make your head hurt, study confirms.” Some people become anxious at the thought of having to solve a math problem and not knowing how to do it.
Math anxiety can even cause physical pain, according to a new study, the Los Angeles Times article reports. Math anxiety can cut the laughter right out of your life when you experience physiological and emotional pain, fear, or discomfort. You might also refer to a similar article published in the Los Angeles Times story from 2010. According to the article, Sian Beilock, a psychologist at the University of Chicago, studies the condition along with other aspects of cognitive psychology and education. Also see, How Our Sense of Touch is a Lot Like the Way We Hear.
Neurons in humans and animals communicate through electrical bits, similar to the digital ones and zeros used by computers. Are we programmed, hardwired in our brains and our organs to re-boot the body with laughter? Then again, laughter too hard and for too long can kill you if you’re not in good health. On the other hand, laughing enough to refresh the body and brain can extend your lifespan, so scientists reveal in new studies.
Why can laughter extend your lifespan?
When laughter helps blood vessels work better, it helps those blood vessels to be more elastic and be able to work and last longer. See the 2005 news release, “Laughter helps blood vessels function better.” Volunteers were shown funny and disturbing movies to test the effect of emotions on blood vessels in this study from the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Using laughter-provoking movies to gauge the effect of emotions on cardiovascular health, researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore have shown for the first time that laughter is linked to healthy function of blood vessels. Laughter appears to cause the tissue that forms the inner lining of blood vessels, the endothelium, to dilate or expand in order to increase blood flow.
Mental stress causes reduction of blood flow and oxygen
When the same group of study volunteers was shown a movie that produced mental stress, their blood vessel lining developed a potentially unhealthy response called vasoconstriction, reducing blood flow. That finding confirms previous studies, which suggested there was a link between mental stress and the narrowing of blood vessels.
The results of the study, conducted at the University of Maryland Medical Center, were presented at the Scientific Session of the American College of Cardiology on March 7, 2005, in Orlando, Florida. The endothelium has a powerful effect on blood vessel tone and regulates blood flow, adjusts coagulation and blood thickening, and secretes chemicals and other substances in response to wounds, infections or irritation. It also plays an important role in the development of cardiovascular disease.
Can laughter help to slow down hardening of the arteries and their inflammation?
“The endothelium is the first line in the development of atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries, so, given the results of our study, it is conceivable that laughing may be important to maintain a healthy endothelium, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease,” says principal investigator Michael Miller, M.D., director of preventive cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center and associate professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, according to the news release, Laughter helps blood vessels function better. “At the very least, laughter offsets the impact of mental stress, which is harmful to the endothelium.”
The study included a group of 20 non-smoking, healthy volunteers, equally divided between men and women, whose average age was 33. The participants had normal blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose levels. Each volunteer was shown part of two movies at the extreme ends of the emotional spectrum.
They were randomized to first watch either a movie that would cause mental stress, such as the opening scene of “Saving Private Ryan” (DreamWorks, 1998), or a segment of a movie that would cause laughter, such as “King Pin” (MGM, 1996). A minimum of 48 hours later, they were shown a movie intended to produce the opposite emotional extreme.
Researchers measured how well the blood vessels respond as participants watched a laughable movie segment from “King Pin” (MGM, 1996).
Prior to seeing a movie, the volunteers fasted overnight and were given a baseline blood vessel reactivity test to measure what is known as flow-mediated vasodilation. For that test, blood flow in the brachial artery in the arm was restricted by a blood pressure cuff and released. An ultrasound device then measured how well the blood vessel responded to the sudden increase in flow.
Volunteers watched a 15-minute segment of the movie while lying down in a temperature-controlled room. After the movie was shown, the brachial artery was constricted for five minutes and then released. Again, ultrasound images were acquired. Changes in blood vessel reactivity after the volunteers watched a movie lasted for at least 30 to 45 minutes. A total of 160 blood vessel measurements were performed before and after the laughter and mental stress phases of the study.
There were no differences in the baseline measurements of blood vessel dilation in either the mental stress or laughter phases. But there were striking contrasts after the movies were seen. Brachial artery flow was reduced in 14 of the 20 volunteers following the movie clips that caused mental stress.
Beneficial blood vessel relaxation (vasodilation) increased after watching movie that generated laughter
In contrast, beneficial blood vessel relaxation or vasodilation was increased in 19 of the 20 volunteers after they watched the movie segments that generated laughter. Overall, average blood flow increased 22 percent during laughter, and decreased 35 percent during mental stress.
Several volunteers had already seen “Saving Private Ryan,” says Dr. Miller, but even so, some of them were among the 14 with reduced blood flow.
“The magnitude of change we saw in the endothelium is similar to the benefit we might see with aerobic activity, but without the aches, pains and muscle tension associated with exercise,” says Dr. Miller. “We don’t recommend that you laugh and not exercise, but we do recommend that you try to laugh on a regular basis. Thirty minutes of exercise three times a week, and 15 minutes of laughter on a daily basis is probably good for the vascular system.”
What’s the source of laughter’s benefit?
Dr. Miller says this study was not able to determine the source of laughter’s benefit. “Does it come from the movement of the diaphragm muscles as you chuckle or guffaw, or does it come from a chemical release triggered by laughter, such as endorphins?” he asks. Dr. Miller says a compound called nitric oxide is known to play a role in the dilation of the endothelium. “Perhaps mental stress leads to a breakdown in nitric oxide or inhibits a stimulus to produce nitric oxide that results in vasoconstriction,” says Dr. Miller in the news release.
Potential benefits of laughter
The current study builds on earlier research Dr. Miller conducted on the potential benefits of laughter, reported in 2000, which suggested that laughter may be good for the heart. In that study, answers to questionnaires helped determine whether people were prone to laughter and ascertain their levels of hostility and anger. Three hundred volunteers participated in the study. Half of them had suffered a heart attack or had undergone coronary artery bypass surgery; the other half did not have heart disease. People with heart disease responded with less humor to everyday life situations than those with a normal cardiovascular system.
Dr. Miller says certain factors in the earlier study may have affected the results. For example, he says it may be that people who have already had a coronary event are not as laughter-prone as those who do not have heart disease.
Dr. Miller says the current study sought to eliminate that uncertainty by using volunteers whose cardiovascular system was healthy
The results of the brachial artery blood flow measurements, which are precise and objective, appear to make the connection between laughter and cardiovascular health even stronger, according to Dr. Miller.
Other researchers in the study included Charles Mangano, R.D.M.S; Young Park, M.D.; Radha Goel, M.D.; Gary Plotnick, M.D. and Robert A. Vogel, M.D., all from the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The study was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health and a Veterans Affairs Merit award to Dr. Miller. Also see, FAQs – Aging Accelerating Progress in Anti-Aging Medicine.
Some people get angry at the same situations that others laugh at. In various Candid Camera situations of past decades, people laughed at the practical jokes put on them, but others got angry. In the present TV series “What Would You Do?” people either find the situations arousing their anger or they laugh. It depends on whether you can laugh at your own or other’s actions and how seriously or light you take life in stride.
What’s funny and makes some people laugh may be scary for others. And men and women might be laughing at different situations. For example, men might laugh at a scary ghost prank in an elevator, where women might find the situation a frightening practical joke that reminds them of abuse in their past or a fearful event or crime possibility. It all depends on what makes you, as an individual laugh, based on your fear response or what you really think is funny and not scary or abusive.
Resources for healing through laughter
Comedy Cures Foundation, Laugh Angeles Foundation, Laughter Heals Foundation, Laughter Therapy, and Rx Laughter
Educational Humor Resources
American Association Of Therapeutic Humor, How Laughter Works, Humor Matters, The Humor, Collection, World Laughter Tour
Bumper “T” Caring Clowns, Caring Clowns International, Clowns of America International, Clowns Without Borders. Fools for Health, and Hospital Clown Newsletter
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