Laughter Medicine for Heart Health: Laugh your Way to a Healthy Heart
A good heartfelt laughter is a welcome relief not only from a prosaic and morose life but also for those lesser mortals who spend their entire waking hours thinking only about the future. Laughter improves heart health. Laughter: is this what makes us human? At least that is what some people say, although we may never know whether animals laugh. What if animals have developed a way to laugh without exposing their dirty teeth? May be animals laugh; that is why perhaps animals have healthy heart, at least healthier than humans.
Okay let us get back to humans. They say humor is infectious. Humor keeps us healthy. Humor reduces stress and tension and helps heart health. But humor is also hard to come by. Who cares about humor or laughter when their life hangs in balance between income and expenditure? Or between love and hate? Humor and laughter do not come cheap for some people. Some are blessed with humor naturally, others have to look for it, watch comedy movies or sitcoms just to laugh for a few minutes. Blessed are the ones who take everything easy with a smile. Such people are the real billionaires or may be even trillionaires; for them wealth is health.
Laughter and Heart Health
Laughter is good for health, especially heart health. There are many ways to reduce stress and tension, but laughter is a natural stress buster. Someone said laughter is more pleasurable than sex. A heartfelt laughter is enjoyable and the pleasure stays longer, even after the actual act. Laughter relaxes tensed muscles, boosts immune system, improves vascular function and even releases endorphin in our blood. Endorphin is a feel-good chemical the body releases after exercise. That is one of the reasons why we feel good after strenuous physical exercise. All these lead to heart health.
Research on Laughter and Heart Health
A recent study carried out by Japanese researchers (1) shows that laughter improves our vascular function. They studied the effects of mirthful laughter on 17 adults (aged 23 to 42 years) who watched comedy or documentary for 30 minutes. The researchers found beneficial effects of vascular function on those who watched comedy. Another study (2) conducted in the US found listening to joyful music improves vascular function. So there is evidence out there to support laughter is good for our heart health.
So how can we laugh? For those of you who are interested, there is something called laughter yoga, where you could join and laugh all the way to heart health. But for others, there is a simple way; synthetic laughter.
Synthetic Laughter: Laugh Yourself
Here is how it works. Every day morning or evening whenever you find time, just go to your room, close the door, stand on the floor, and just laugh. You could also do this in an open ground, provided your neighbors are okay with it. Laugh loudly. It would help if you close your eyes, because now you are not seeing anything and your mind concentrates on the laugh. Eyesight is a sure distraction. Shake you upper body while you laugh, be free, let yourself go completely. Keep laughing for 15 minutes or even more.
In the beginning you may find it difficult to bring yourself to laughter, but as you keep laughing artificially, you will see how your body relaxes and muscles cooperate. If you find it difficult to laugh yourself, think of a hilarious comedy movie or sitcom you recently watched, run that scene in your mind and let that scene ignite your laugh. Hold on from then on and keep going, laugh loudly.
This method is only for those of you who are not naturally humorous. If you love humor and keep laughing regularly, then you are already on the way to a healthy heart.
1. Effect of mirthful laughter on vascular function. Sugawara J, Tarumi T, Tanaka H. Am J Cardiol. 2010 Sep 15;106(6):856
2.Divergent effects of joyful and anxiety provoking music on endothelial vasoreactivity. Miller M, Mangano CC, Beach V, Kop WJ, Vogel RA. Psychosom Med. 2010 May;72(4):354-6.
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