Humor And Health


Research / studies established the role of humor, joy for good health. Laughter’s is internal jogging of the heart and helps cure respiratory problems.

In an earlier post, Journey of Humor, humor was depicted as:

The quality that brings a balance to the physical and mental health of people by diluting the stressful effects of the life through release of tension by making them see the world from a comical angle.

Humor has inherent quality to produce pleasant feelings and lighten human burdens. It helps in maintaining a more balanced and meaningful life. It also contributes to changing people’s outlook about life. Humor is well documented as a powerful tool in coping with life stress, tension, anxiety, depression and pessimism.

The journey of humor is continuing and according to the latest studies and research humor’s role and impact is far more than providing enjoyment, entertainment and reducing stress, tension, anxiety and depression. With the passage of time more information about the effects of humor is coming out. Studies and research have shown that a person’s thinking, emotions and values impact his health as well as healing system. Thus, positive attitude and factors of hope, love, friendship, joy, happiness and humor, positively affect the health and the healing process.

Evidence has emerged of humor’s role in health. It stands proved that humor can play a vital role in maintaining good health as well as countering factors involved in health issues. Although a healthy diet and regular exercise also play an important role in this area, but it is not accompanied by the feeling of pleasure, happiness and joy, which is the hallmark of humor.

According to a quote of Voltaire; “The art of medicine consists of keeping the patient amused while nature heals the disease.” It is, therefore very much clear that the importance and the role of humor about health was well-recognized in ancient times. As mentioned earlier in the post Journey of humor, the use of word “humors” for the first time was found in medical science. It was Hippocrates Of Cos (450 BCE to 380 BCE) a Greek physician and a contemporary of Plato, who for the first time postulated that four bodily humors or liquids existed in the body. These four liquids determined a human’s health and psychology. An imbalance among the humors–blood, phlegm, black bile (or tears), and yellow bile (or choler)–resulted in pain and disease, and good health resulted through a balance of the four humors”. When imbalance occurred, then the physician might intervene by making a correction to bring the body back into balance.

Research has proved that humor boosts the immune system and that people with a good sense of humor have stronger immune systems.

Laughter, which is also called the best medicine is known to cut four neuroendocrine hormones that are connected with stress response.

The positive effect of laughter in heart related disease has been observed and documented. Laughter has been mentioned as “Internal Jogging” of the heart. It has been found that laughter produces the same effect on heart beat as real jogging. Thus laughing can take the place of real jogging for those unable to do real jogging.

Research has shown that laughter have a curative effect on all forms of illness and disturbance and that 20-minutes of humor would result in affective benefits that are comparable to those of a 20-minute bout of aerobic exercise. This was authenticated in an exercise where thirty-nine university students were tested, at weekly intervals, three times: running/jogging at self-selected pace, watching a humorous stand-up comedy, and watching a documentary video. Mood and state anxiety were determined 5-minutes before and after each treatment by using the Subjective Exercise Experience Scale (McAuley & Courneya, 1994) and the Spielberger State Anxiety Inventory (Spielberger, Gorsuch, & Luchene, 1970). Both humor and exercise had an equally positive effect on psychological distress and positive well-being. However, humor exerted greater anxiety-lowering effect than exercise. Based on these results, it is tentatively concluded that humor could induce positive psychological changes that are at least comparable if not superior to the effects of exercise.

Laughter also helps in respiratory problems. Lack of proper breathing sometimes creates problems. Unlike in a relaxed or deep breathing in some cases the balance between the inhaled and exhaled air is disturbed resulting in some air remaining in the lungs. A hearty laughter takes care of these problems by recreating the balance. Similarly when under stress, tension and anxiety breathing becomes rapid, but shallower. That reduces oxygen intake and increases residual air in lungs, leading to decrease in oxygen and increase of carbon dioxide and water vapors facilitating growth of bacteria. Laughter helps in preventing all this from happening by getting rid of the extra air, carbon dioxide and water vapors and replacing it with fresh air full of oxygen.

How right was Abraham Lincoln when he said; “With the fearful strain that is on me night and day. If I do not laugh, I should die”.

There is enough literature on the topic to suggest humor’s value in maintaining good health. There are practical examples of humor and laughter being used by patients in hospitals to cut the effects of stress and anxiety and the hospital environment. It has also been observed that the use of humor in different ways as a part of the hospital environment facilitated the hospital staff in the better management of the patients who suffered from pain and developing good interpersonal relations not only with the patients, but also among the staff members.

By: Tasneem Hameed

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