Health Talk
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Laugh yourself to better health – Truly, humour is the best medicine

LaughingWomanWhen did you last have a good “belly laugh”? We all love a good comedy or joke, but did you know there are proven health benefits when you laugh?

Research into the medical benefits of laughter began in 1979 with the story of Norman Cousins, who was given a few months to live.  Cousins credits his recovery in large part to laughter. Another pioneer was physician “Patch” Adams (played in the movie by the late Robin Williams). Dr. Adams believed in a different kind of bedside manner. He dressed in clown outfits every day and is credited to brining clowning to hospitals around the world. Today, medical clowning is serious medical therapy.

Did you know?

  • Belly laughs involve deep breathing so this is an immediate stress reliever. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes afterwards.
  • Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.
  • Laughing uses up calories. Laughing 100 times is equal to 10 minutes on a rowing machine or 15 minutes on an exercise bike.
  • Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies. This improves your resistance to disease.
  • Laughter (as well as smiling) triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can temporarily relieve pain.
  • Endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers. By laughing or smiling, you release endorphins which can help ease chronic pain and make you feel good all over.

With growing interest in the benefits of laughing (and smiling) there are many organizations and events around the world that encourage and celebrate humour, laughter and clowning.

  • The Humor Academy in the USA offers graduate courses and certificates in humour studies.
  • For those serious about getting others to laugh, you can become a Certified Laughter Leader through the World Laughter Tour.
  • Laughter Yoga Clubs started in India in 1995 and now are active all over the world, including 7 in Toronto.
  • The Canadian Association of Therapeutic Clowns provides training and events coast to coast.
  • In 1993 the Therapeutic Clown Program was introduced at the Hospital for Sick Children.
  • Global Belly Laugh Day, January 24 celebrates smiles and laughter 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on seven continents.

What are the best movies for laughter? According to Forbes Magazine, the following came out on top in terms of  laugh frequency, with each getting about three laughs per minute. Can you guess which ones?  1. Airplane   2. The Hangover   3. Naked Gun