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One of the most effective and at the same time neglected natural remedies is laughter. It greatly benefits our health because it increases the feel-good hormones – endorphins which strengthen our immune system and are regarded as powerful pain-killers and natural anti-inflammatory agents.
Researchers at the University of Michigan have suggested that just 20 seconds of laughter could be as good for the lungs as three minutes of vigorous exercise!
If you’re not sure the laughter therapy is worthy to try, remember that children laugh about 400 times a day whereas adults manage a miserable 0 to15!
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Laughter is a great way to cope with the effects of stress. And it is good to know that our body can’t really see any difference between real and fake laughter – so any form of laughter (real or fake) will be effective.
Sometimes, laughter doesn’t seem to come easily, but even if we are not able to induce a genuine laughter and try to imitate it, it will still benefit our health. Fortunately, the body can’t distinguish between real and fake laughter. Therefore, faking it will produce the same health benefits.
Humour has been used as a natural health treatment for many centuries. Physicians used humour as a pain-killer as early as the 13th century. Also today there are doctors and medical centres that use it as a part of treatment. Dr Lee Berk of Loma University Medical Centre has studied the effects of laughter. Five experimental subjects watched an hour-long comedy while others didn’t. Blood samples taken from the participants revealed that cortisol (the hormone our body releases under stress) had decreased more rapidly in comparison to the control group. The research has also revealed that the level of natural killer cells (immune cells that fight viruses and cancer cells) was increased through laughter.
Laughter therapy trains us to laugh even when we are not happy. Laughing in spite of anger, stress or anxiety will actually improve our mood. And it’s contagious, stimulating others around us to start laughing or at least smiling.
Norman Cousins claims to have cured himself with a self-invented regimen of laughter and vitamins after years of chronic pain. In his book Anatomy of an Illness, he describes how watching comedies helped him recover. After evaluating participants before and after watching a comedy or funny video, studies have revealed that laughter helped to reduce pain, decrease stress-related hormones and boost the immune system.
Dr Annette Goodheart has been using laughter to help patients with health conditions associated with weak immunity, cancer, AIDS, as well as depression, and other illnesses and been teaching at universities, schools, organizations and public events, trying to bring laughter to every part of the world.
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Written by Slawomir Gromadzki, MPH