Laughter Is The Best MedicineLuke Coutinho
Laughter –the simplest way to keep the body and mind healthy. As kids, we used to laugh our heart out even for the most basic jokes, but as we grow, we get lost in our chaotic lives and forget simple ways to be happy.
Laughing your heart out is a super powerful lifestyle change which has been studied and proven by science to have a very positive impact on the neuro-endocrine and immune system.
“Neuro” means the entire neurological system- neurons, synapses, nerves, sensations of pain and pleasure and the feelings.
Endocrine is the system responsible for metabolism, regulating hormones – turning them on and off, skin, hair, thyroid gland, arthritis and autoimmune conditions.
Immune system is responsible for protecting our body from foreign invasions of bacteria, viruses etc. Immunity is the body’s ability to fight disease and infection.
Laughter is connected with gene expression. What is gene expression? It means certain traits are observed in the human body when the connected gene is expressed. All cells in the human body have DNA and genes. There are good genes and bad genes. A certain set of environments externally and internally is needed to trigger the bad genes and manifest it into diabetes, cancer or high blood pressure etc. All of this is related to – EPIGENETICS.
EPI means – Environment and GENES- Genetics.
The word Epigenetics means that the environment controls your genes. The genes can either be upregulated (switched on) or down regulated (switched off). Think of the genes as lights on a Christmas tree which can be switched on or off. Similarly, the genes in our system are being constantly upregulated or downregulated based on our lifestyle.
Reversing high blood pressure, Type 2 Diabetes or putting cancer in remission is possible via working on our genes.
Improper nutrition, chronic stress, sleep deprivation and sedentary lifestyle – each of these four things can turn genes off and express disease. So, what turns the genes back on? Balanced nutrition, regular physical activity, good sleep and control on our emotional stress!
Laughter helps us with improving many disease and health conditions such as:
Laughter helps regulate and decrease postprandial blood glucose. When we laugh after a meal by either watching a comedy movie or act or reading a comic – post prandial blood sugar levels, growth hormones and IGF1, (Insulin Growth factor hormone) all decrease and Natural Killer cells of the immune system which are designed for viruses, bacteria, cancer cells – increase. Just by engaging in 15 to 20 mins of a really good and genuine laughter, pro-renin levels (pro-renin is found in blood that increases the complications of Type 2 Diabetes) decrease. All these changes happen because of gene expression. Laughter is able to upregulate and downregulate certain genes. Laughter acts as natural medicine.
- Autoimmune conditions –
Laughter works for autoimmune conditions too (like rheumatoid arthritis). Autoimmune means our immune system is excited and doesn’t know how to relax. It thus keeps attacking our tissues, joints, myelin sheath, thyroid gland (in case of Hashimoto) or digestive system/Colon (in case of Crohn’s). In case of Arthritis, there is a high level of growth hormone which keeps attacking the tissue, joints and cartilages. Laughter reduces the growth hormone factor in the blood, reduces the pain and gets the immune system in a relaxed state so it does not attack us anymore.
- Digestive disorders:
Abdominal contractions are created when we laugh. When we really laugh hard, sometimes our abdomen pains with the contraction which you can link to the contraction of our pancreas to produce digestive enzymes and insulin, thereby improving our digestion and sugar levels.
- Cardiovascular health:
The University of Maryland researched laughter and shared their findings on how it impacts blood vessels. Our blood vessels supply blood to trillions of cells in the human body. When the blood vessels are not able to supply blood to the organs in our body, we get heart attacks, brain strokes, haemorrhages, paralytic attacks. The University of Maryland published about the positive impact of laughter in relaxing blood vessels. So, when our blood vessels relax, blood flow towards all the organs in our body increases, reducing the possibility of a heart attack or stroke. If you are with a patient who has complained of a heart attack or has symptoms and they are on the way to a hospital, if you can get them to laugh, you automatically get their blood vessels to dilate and relax.
- Low immunity:
There is a positive impact of laughter on increasing the Natural Killer cells which is a part of our immune system and has the function of identifying cancerous and mutating cells. We get so involved in our treatments that we forget that the human body has its own innate intelligence to heal itself. This is not to say that it will replace your chemotherapy or radiation but will take you leaps and bounds forward in your possible healing and recovery.
- Circulation and oxygenation:
Every time we laugh, there is contraction that helps increase blood circulation. When there is more blood flow, there is more oxygenation in the cells. Blood carries nutrients from the food that we eat and oxygen from the air that we breathe. These two are vital foods for every single cell in the human body. When we have more oxygen and nutrients reaching the cells, we have more energy and in turn a stronger immune system and lower inflammation levels. This can all be done just by having a good laugh because it brings about contractions.
- Anxiety and Depression:
Laughter can also help combat anxiety and depression because every time we laugh, it tricks the brain into believing that we are happy. Just by smiling we move from the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) to the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The sympathetic nervous system is where all our stress, worry and anxiety happen. The PNS signals to the body that everything is okay and the stressful event is over. So, we can trick our brain into believing and moving out of the stressful system into the non-stressful system by only laughing or smiling. Even if we have to fake it, it helps in tricking our entire subconscious mind and brain into believing the opposite.
- Pain management
Anyone who exercises, would have experienced the production of a hormone called endorphins. Endorphins work as natural pain relievers. This is why even though you are tired after an exercise, the body feels ecstatic. Certain pains and dull feelings in our muscles post a long run or a workout are not felt immediately at that point because of the just produced endorphins. When the endorphins come down, we feel that dull ache in all the muscles that we exercised. Laughter has the ability to stimulate the production of endorphins.
- Helps us feel good
Oxytocin is the love hormone or the touch hormone. Why do you feel so good, loved and cared with physical touch post sex, orgasms, climaxes? It is because of Oxytocin. It is the hormone that allows these feelings and laughter also has the ability to stimulate oxytocin naturally in the human body. When we are laughing with a group of people, we feel a sense of togetherness, it’s because of oxytocin production. You mellow down or feel so good hearing an infant laugh or a child giggle because of oxytocin production. Oxytocin is the hormone which helps in the parent child bonding. It also increases the bonding between adults. But as we grow, we develop our own layers of life- judgment, criticising etc so we are not as innocent as a child to just laugh our hearts out.
- Induces relaxation:
The easiest way to activate the relaxation response in the human body is laughter. We should be able to laugh at ourselves and at our mistakes. We should be able to make others laugh but you don’t get these same health benefits if you are laughing at other people’s expenses. There are a lot of people who laugh by putting others down. These kinds of people exist in society and our own circles. That kind of laughter is not good for anyone’s health, not for the victim, not for the person making the joke and not for the people who are laughing at the joke. That’s just a sign of insecurity and low self-worth. We need to understand that laughter has to be pure and must come out naturally.
Here is a fun fact!
Every time we have a sad thought, we produce a chemical in our body that can down regulate our genes and every time we have a happy thought or feel happy, we produce chemicals that can up regulate our genes. Now it is up to us to decide how much emotional downfall we have in our life and how can we handle that because human health starts in the mind and manifests in the human body.
One needs to find something that makes them laugh. This is in reference to mirthful laughter. There are so many things that can make us laugh, feel happy and really laugh from our gut. Few suggestions are:
- A good social circle where you don’t feel judged and be the way you want, where you can say everything that comes from your heart.
- Read a funny book
- Watch a comedy show.
- Watch a funny movie that you like
- Prepare a laughter list. Include the top 3-4 things, which can make you laugh the moment you read them or think about them. It is extremely beneficial especially when you are stressed out or just having a bad day as it immediately activates the relaxation response in the human body.
Today the world has gone so serious about everything in life. It’s good to be serious but it is also good to take it easy and laugh because when we are constantly serious, we are in the SNS which means we are more stressed, anxious, fearful, and insecure. But when we are in the relaxation mode which is the PNS, we allow every cell in the human body to relax. All healing and prevention happen in a state of relaxation.
Laughter is beyond medicine. It is not a replacement for doctors, medications or treatment. Beyond medicine basically means what else exists beyond the world of allopathy, drugs and treatments, that can heal us. Sunlight, fresh air, clean water, good food, movement, quality sleep, managing our emotions and laughter are all powerful drugs beyond medicine that when we integrate into our lives, we invest in prevention and a possibility of healing and recovering.