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Health Defence Blog

Welcome to the Health Defence Blog - a blog about health, wellness and a healthier you. Brought to you by the Health Defence team at Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, you'll find up-to-date information on a range of topics from what's in your food to the latest advice on e-cigarettes!

We’ve all heard the old adage that laughter is the best medicine but how much truth is there in the saying? Quite a lot, according to a number of research studies. There are numerous reasons for us to stop taking life so seriously and enjoy a good belly laugh on a regular basis. 

Physiological effects of a good guffaw include:

  • Reducing blood pressure - people who laugh regularly tend to have lower blood pressure. Laughing decreases the chemicals that constrict blood vessels and raise blood pressure.
  • Reducing the hormones associated with stress. Stress is bad, as it causes a series of inflammatory reactions that lead to fat and cholesterol build up in the coronary vessels.
  • Providing distraction therapy for those in pain. Laughter has been shown to decrease reported pain levels.
  • Increasing the number of infection fighting antibodies.
  • Resulting in better emptying of the lungs and filling them with more air, which increases the amount of oxygen rich blood and nutrients circulating around the body.
  • Using up the same amount of calories as walking at a slow to moderate pace.

A seminal research study undertaken by the University of Maryland found that people with heart disease were 40% less likely to laugh in a variety of situations compared to people of the same age without heart disease. So, the ability to see the humorous side of life is, clearly, no laughing matter…  (sorry, couldn’t resist it!).

joke-1

Additionally, laughter improves mental well-being.  It’s difficult to feel negative emotions, such as anger or sadness, when you’re having a good chuckle at something. Laughter definitely has the feel-good factor.  I read one article recently suggesting that humour and laughter shift perspectives, so that situations can seem less threatening and overwhelming to people.  This reminded me of my time as a practising nurse in critical care, where I often used humour and laughter with patients in an attempt to lighten difficult or frightening experiences.

Laughter is a social activity - shared laughter among people can strengthen relationships and create a feeling of being part of a group or team.  I’m fortunate enough to work amongst colleagues who enjoy a good joke and, as we say in Scotland, a wee bit of banter.  One of my work-mates has an amazingly unique and infectious laugh. When she laughs, we laugh and we all feel better for it.  Laughing with others is much more enjoyable than laughing alone.

In fact, laughter in the workplace has been shown to aid creativity (as staff are more relaxed); build trust between colleagues; and create a happier environment where staff retention and moral are boosted and turnover is reduced.

joke-3Children, seemingly, laugh on average 400 times a day.  The average adult, on the other hand, laughs 15 times a day.  That’s 385 less laughs.  Given the physiological, psychological and social benefits of laughter, perhaps there is a place for healthcare professionals to prescribe laughter?  Imagine going to your GP and being prescribed 15 minutes of laughter x 3 times per day, instead of the antibiotics or anti-depressants you were anticipating?  Or being advised to fit in a visit to the cinema to see a good comedy (I would recommend 'Bridesmaids'), along with eating a low fat diet and taking more exercise.

Life would become not only healthier but also a lot more enjoyable!

***Disclaimer: always seek medical advice before starting a new diet, exercise regime or medication. The information in these articles is not a substitute for professional advice from a GP, registered dietitian or other health practitioner.

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