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A Healthy Dose Of Laughter (The Effects Of Laughter On The Human Body)

1264 words - 5 pages

A Healthy Dose of LaughterLaughter seems to have a curative effect on many forms of illness and emotional disturbance. The idea that laughter has positive health effects is embodied in the folklore of many cultures. It is being used to help patients with problems as diverse as depression, high blood pressure, and cancer. It is hypothesized that laughter stimulates the human body physiologically and psychologically. The adage that laughter is the best medicine is now being backed up by scientific evidence. For example, a recent study called "Rx Laughter" was designed to understand the biological links between humor, laughing, illness, and health in children (www.rxlaughter.org). UCLA doctors and researchers from the Pediatric Pain Program, Department of Psychiatry, and the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center intend to learn about the ways in which humor and laughter impact the body's stress response and pain response systems, including cardiovascular, hormonal, and immune effects. Founded by Ms. Sherry Dunay Hilber in 1998, Rx Laughter is the "first project ever to use humor as a healer for seriously ill children and adolescents and in this large and long-term scope and design" (www.rxlaughter.org). Rx Laughter uses carefully selected videos of funny television series and films to children and teens undergoing medical procedures. As the patients watch these videos during their treatment, doctors find new ways to help improve their immune function and speed of healing, reduce their pain and improve their quality of life. Research has shown that those with a more positive attitude have a better chance of recovery during illness. Therefore, this prescription of laughter empowers and motivates seriously ill children and teens by giving them a simple, enjoyable, and painless way to feel better and become more motivated to take part in their treatment. This usually leads to a faster and stronger recovery both psychologically and physiologically for them and their families (www.rxlaughter.org). Dr. William Fry, associate professor of clinical psychiatry at Stanford University, has studied the effects of laughter for 30 years. Fry compares laughter to "inner jogging," and claims that laughing 100-200 times a day is the equivalent of 10 minutes of rowing or jogging (Fry 39-50). According to Fry, laughter increases the heart rate, improves blood circulation, and works muscles all over the body. It also opens up breathing and increases tolerance to pain. The result is a decrease in stress hormones and an increase in healthy antibodies. Another study, led by Dr. Lee Berk of the Loma Linda School of Medicine, demonstrates that laughter can fend off many of the physiological effects of distress. When our bodies are stressed, they release large quantities of hormones called cortisol (stress hormone) and epinephrine, better known as adrenaline. The secretion of these hormones set off a surge of responses including increased blood sugar and...

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