History - Laughter as medicine

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Many individuals have contributed to laughter as modern complementary medicine. Here are a few:


😂    Norman Cousins, celebrated political writer

In 1979,  Cousins published the book Anatomy of an Illness  in which he describes a potentially fatal disease he contracted in 1964 and his discovery of of the benefits of humor and other positive emotions in battling the disease.


Cousins found, for example, that ten minutes of mirthful laughter gave him two hours of pain-free sleep. His story baffled the scientific community and inspired a number of research projects.


😂    Dr. William F. Fry, psychiatrist, Stanford University, California, USA

Dr. Fry began to examine the physiological effects of laughter in the late 1960s and he is considered the father of gelotology  (the science of laughter).


Dr. Fry proved that mirthful laughter provides good physical exercise and can decrease our chances of respiratory infections. He showed that laughter causes our body to produce endorphins (natural pain killers).


😂    Dr. Lee Berk, Loma Linda University Medical Center, California, USA Inspired by Norman Cousins, Dr. Berk and his team of researchers from the fields of psycho-neuro-immunology (PNI) studied the physical impact of mirthful laughter.


In one study heart attack patients were divided into two groups: one half was placed under standard medical care while the other half watched humorous videos for thirty minutes each day. 

After one year the humor group had fewer arrhythmias, lower blood pressure, lower levels of stress hormones, and required lower doses of medications. The non-humor group had two and a half times more recurrent heart attacks than the humor group (50% vs. 20%).


😂    Dr. Hunter (Patch) Adams,  Medical Doctor, Social Activist

Immortalized in film by Robin Williams, Dr. Hunter inspired millions of people by bringing fun and laughter back into the hospital world and putting into practice the idea "healing should be a loving human interchange, not a business transaction".


He is the founder and director of the Gesundheit Institute, a holistic medical community that has been providing free medical care to thousands of patients since 1971. He was the catalyst for the creation of thousands of therapeutic care clowns worldwide.


😂    Dr.  Annette Goodheart,  Psychotherapist

Dr. Goodheart is the creator of laughter therapy and laughter coaching. For 36 years she used laughter to treat cancer, AIDS, depression, MS, Parkinson's, sexual and physical abuse, to name a few. Regardless of the cause of the distress, Dr. Goodheart found that laughter, a cathartic process, helps re-balance the chemistry of emotions and could be a keystone for healing. She is the author of the book  Laughter Therapy: How to Laugh About Everything in Your Life That Really Isn't Funny.


😂    Dr. Madan Kataria, Medical Doctor, Creator of Laughter Yoga

In March 1995 Dr. Kataria, a family physician from Mumbai, India, decided to write an article called Laughter - The Best Medicine for a health journal.  In the process he became impressed with the work of Norman Cousins and Dr. Berk.  Dr. Kataria also discovered that the body cannot differentiate between acted and genuine laughter.


He then created a range of laughter exercises including elements of role-play and other techniques from his days as an amateur dramatic actor. The exercises promote the use of breathing, clapping, chanting, movement, and eye contact to relax the body and mind. His theory is that you cannot be physically relaxed and mentally stressed at the same time. Not only does it increase happiness, but he found the practice also strengthens the immune system  and reduces pain while lowering stress.  Dr. Kataria discovered laughter relaxes the whole body. It triggers the release of endorphins, promoting an overall sense of well-being. Laughter Yoga (Hasya Yoga) was born and is now practiced all over the world.


😂    Oxford University, UK, The Royal Society Publishing

In September 2011, academics from Oxford University published research demonstrating that continuous laughter significantly increases people's pain threshold, by  as much as 10%.

To read the article, click here: https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rspb.2011.1373