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Laughter and Health_Part 1

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  Laughter and Health We've long known that the ability to laugh is helpful to those coping with major illness and thestress of life's problems. But researchers are now saying laughter can do a lot more -- it can basically bring balance to all the components of the immune system which helps us fight off diseases. ! ee How the #mmune ystem Works.$ %s we mentioned earlier laughter reduces levels of certain stress hormones. #n doing thislaughter provides a safety valve that shuts off the flow of stress hormones and the fight-or-flightcompounds that swing into action in our bodies when we e&perience stress anger or hostility.hese stress hormones suppress the immune system increase the number of blood platelets!which can cause obstructions in arteries$ and raise blood pressure. When we're laughing naturalkiller cells that destroy tumors and viruses increase as do (amma-interferon !a disease-fighting protein$ -cells which are a major part of the immune response and B-cells which makedisease-destroying antibodies. Laughter may lead to hiccuping and coughing which clears the respiratory tract by dislodgingmucous plugs. Laughter also increases the concentration of salivary immunoglobulin % whichdefends against infectious organisms entering through the respiratory tract. What may surprise you even more is the fact that researchers estimate that laughing )** times ise+ual to )* minutes on the rowing machine or ), minutes on an e&ercise bike. Laughing can be atotal body workout Blood pressure is lowered and there is an increase in vascular blood flowand in o&ygenation of the blood which further assists healing. Laughter also gives your diaphragm and abdominal respiratory facial leg and back muscles a workout. hat's why youoften feel e&hausted after a long bout of laughter -- you've just had an aerobic workout he psychological benefits of humor are +uite amaing according to doctors and nurses who aremembers of the %merican %ssociation for herapeutic Humor. /eople often store negativeemotions such as anger sadness and fear rather than e&pressing them. Laughter provides a wayfor these emotions to be harmlessly released. Laughter is cathartic. hat's why some people who are upset or stressed out go to a funny movieor a comedy club so they can laugh the negative emotions away !these negative emotions whenheld inside can cause biochemical changes that can affect our bodies$. #ncreasingly mental health professionals are suggesting 0laughter therapy0 which teaches peoplehow to laugh -- openly -- at things that aren't usually funny and to cope in difficult situations byusing humor. 1ollowing the lead of real-life funny-doc /atch %dams !portrayed by 2obinWilliams in a movie by the same name$ doctors and psychiatrists are becoming more aware of the therapeutic benefits of laughter and humor. his is due in part to the growing body of humor and laughter scholarship !,** academicians from different disciplines belong to the#nternational ociety for Humor tudies$. Here are some tips to help you put more laughter in your life3 1igure out what makes you laugh and do it !or read it or watch it$ more often. urround yourself with funny people -- be with them every chance you get.)  4evelop your own sense of humor. 5aybe even take a class to learn how to be a better comic --or at least a better joke-teller at that ne&t party. Be funny every chance you get -- as long as it'snot at someone else's e&pense Laughter and health  By 4r. risha 5acnair %s a doctor # daily pump my patients full of medicines or arrange the latest high tech therapies inthe optimistic hope that it will help cure their problem. But if # can make them roar with laughter then # really feel #'ve scored %t the least #'ve helpedthem forget about their troubles and genuinely improved the +uality of their life if only for a brief few seconds. But some e&perts would have you believe that # will have done more than thatand actually helped to stimulate their immune system to fight its own battles.2esearch suggests it is good for your health #nstinctively most people feel that having a laugh isgood for us and many have tried to pin down the particular ways it helps!http366www.jesthealth.com6frame-articles.html$ but is there really good evidence that hilarity hasmedical benefits7here's plenty of research going on to study the link between humour and health. 1or e&ampleit's been shown that people who survive a heart attack are less likely to have a second attackneed less medication and have lower blood pressure if they e&perience 8* minutes of humour aday. Laughter has been shown to lower the levels of steroid chemicals in the blood which areassociated with stress !e.g. cortisol$ increase levels of some immunoglobulins and increasetolerance of pain. But some e&perts are more cautious about the claimshttp366humormatters.com6articles6researchresults.htm and the e&act links are far fromclear. 1or e&ample some other recent research has shown that people with heart disease are 9* percentless likely to laugh in humorous situations than those with healthy hearts - but does this meanhumour can help to prevent heart problems or that people with heart problems lose their sense of humour7 (reat for stress-busting /erhaps one of the best uses for humour in the medical world is in the psychological side of illness and in mental health problems such as an&iety3 http366aath.org6art:sultanoff*).html.Humour is a vital coping mechanism enabling people to defuse stress deal with humiliationdeflate embarrassment and mentally cope with pain and suffering. %t the right time and in theright conte&t most people are able to find laughter helpful in e&amining their plight even in theface of terrible adversity.;  Laughter can be therapeutic for medical staff too. #t helps put problems into perspective acts as acathartic and rela&es relieving the tensions and stresses of suffering as well as the pressured jobthat is the lot of the doctor or nurse. o laughing helps patients cope with illness doctors cope with their patients and everyone in thehospital rub along with the failings of the rest of the team.1ind out more about humour and how it can be used for stress relief and dealing withemotions at http366library.think+uest.org6;,,**6inde&;.htm. herapeutic humour specialists 3 4espite +uestions about how or why humour makes us better it's rapidly grown as a medicalspeciality all of its own. #n the < % there are humour therapists and clowns working in manyhospitals and the idea is catching on here. Hear about the work of hobi 4obi an %mericanHospital =lown. >r read about the work of 1rench clowns and how they even have their owncode of ethics for working in hospitals.#t's not simply a matter of telling jokes but using humour in a targeted way to deal with specific problems. he %merican %ssociation for herapeutic Humour defines therapeutic humour as0..any intervention that promotes health and wellness by stimulating a playful discoverye&pression or appreciation of the absurdity or incongruity of life's situations to facilitate healingor coping whether physical emotional cognitive social or spiritual?.0 1ind out more aboutthe serious matter of therapeutic humour via the sites listed at http366www.jesthealth.com6frame-resources.html. How laughter works 7 Bill (ates and the president of (eneral 5otors have met for lunch and Bill is going on and onabout computer technology.0#f automotive technology had kept pace with computer technology over the past few decadesyou would now be driving a @-8; instead of a @-A and it would have a top speed of )**** miles per hour0 says (ates. 0>r you could have an economy car that weighs 8* pounds and gets athousand miles to a gallon of gas. #n either case the sticker price of a new car would be less than,*. Why haven't you guys kept up70 he president of (5 smiles and says 0Because the federal government won't let us build carsthat crash four times a day.0 Why is that funny7 Have you ever wondered about that7 Human beings love to laugh and theaverage adult laughs )C times a day. Humans love to laugh so much that there are actuallyindustries built around laughter. Dokes sitcoms and comedians are all designed to get uslaughing because laughing feels good. 1or us it seems so natural but the funny thing is thathumans are one of the only species that laughs. Laughter is actually a comple& response thatinvolves many of the same skills used in solving proble8  Laughter is a great thing -- that's why we've all heard the saying 0Laughter is the best medicine.0here is strong evidence that laughter can actually improve health and help fight disease. #n thisedition of How tuffWorks we'll look at laughter -- what it is what happens in our brains whenwe laugh what makes us laugh and how it can make us healthier and happier. Eou'll also learnthat there's a tremendous amount that no one understands yet What is laughter 7 1irst of all laughter is not the same as humor. Laughter is the physiological response to humor.Laughter consists of two parts F a set of gestures and the production of a sound. When welaugh the brain pressures us to conduct both those activities simultaneously. When we laughheartily changes occur in many parts of the body even the arm leg and trunk muscles. #f you want to get specific about it it works like this3 <nder certain conditions our bodies perform what the Gncyclopedia Britannica describes as 0rhythmic vocalied e&piratory andinvoluntary actions0 -- better known as laughter. 1ifteen facial muscles contract and stimulationof the ygomatic major muscle !the main lifting mechanism of your upper lip$ occurs.5eanwhile the respiratory system is upset by the epiglottis half-closing the laryn& so that air intake occurs irregularly making you gasp. #n e&treme circumstances the tear ducts areactivated so that while the mouth is opening and closing and the struggle for o&ygen intakecontinues the face becomes moist and often red !or purple$. he noises that usually accompanythis biarre behavior range from sedate giggles to boisterous guffaws. Behavioral neurobiologist and pioneering laughter researcher 2obert /rovine jokes that he hasencountered one major problem in his study of laughter. he problem is that laughter disappears just when he is ready to observe it -- especially in the laboratory. >ne of his studies lookedat the sonic structure of laughter. He discovered that all human laughter consists of variations ona basic form that consists of short vowel-like notes repeated every ;)* milliseconds.Laughter can be of the 0ha-ha-ha0 variety or the 0ho-ho-ho0 type but not a mi&ture of both hesays. /rovine also suggests that humans have a 0detector0 that responds to laughter by triggeringother neural circuits in the brain which in turn generates more laughter. his e&plainswhy laughter is contagious. Humor researcher /eter 4erks describes laughter response as 0a really +uick automatic type of  behavior.0 0#n fact how +uickly our brain recognies the incongruity that lies at the heart of mosthumor and attaches an abstract meaning to it determines whether we laugh0 he says. 9

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