Laugh Away the Pain? It’s Evolutionary.

Once upon a time, Charlie Chaplin said, "Laughter is the tonic, the relief, the surcease for pain." Last week, The New York Times agreed. The reported on a recent study which found that,"laughing increased pain resistance." In this story, the science of modern times sides with the clown. The Oxford study also suggests that laughter has provided primates with an age-old evolutionary advantage.

Oxford evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar concluded that laughter triggers endorphins that allowed test subjects to resist pain longer. Test subjects watched a variety of video. Some subjects watched "The Simpsons," Eddie Izzard routines, and other comedy clips. Other participants watched  footage considered feel-good without being funny, like nature programs. Others  were subjected to boring- er- 'neutral' golf and pet training videos. All participants were monitored for laughter during the shows. The participants who laughed proved better able to withstand pain resistance tests adminstered after watching the videos. Another experiment, conducted live at an Oxford Imps improv show, supported the findings that laughter eases pain. 

The study reports that laughter, not just a general sense of well being, is key to the endorphin response and pain relief. Dr. Dunbar hypothesizes that laughter has been key to the social evolution of primates. Like singing, dancing, and other physical activities, shared laughter strengthens group bonds. A laugh today may play tonic to your pain, and shared giggling echoes age-old evolutionary rewards. I think may be time to rewatch Charlie Chaplin…

Dunbar's study was published in the proceedings of the Royal Society B, Biological Sciences.

Laugh it up!

Alicia

Laugh and Eat Chocolate! It’s Good for Your Heart!

Chocolate Any fool knows that laughing and eating chocolate will make you feel good. Now scholars agree too! Let's sing it from the rooftops! (And support it with peer-reviewed science!) "EAT CHOCOLATE AND BE MERRY! Your heart will thank you!"

As explored in blogs past, laughing helps the heart. It reduces stress and increases healthy hormones in the same way exercise does. (Check out my blog entry 'How Many Chuckles = a Chinup?") Add to that happy science a recent study which discovered that habitual chocolate eaters showed a 37% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and 29% reduced risk of stroke.

It sounds too good to be true. No- this study was not sponsored by the Bay Area Hedonists Club. Scientists from the University of Cambridge announced the news at the European Society of Cardiology convention at the end of August. The respected British Medical Journal published the findings. Any google search yields pages of slavering support. It must be true! 

So, is "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" passé? Probably not. Researchers caution that there are plenty of unhealthy ingrediants in chocolate treats. Going hog wild with calorific chocolate pudding on a regular basis is more likely to damage your heart. However, 'plain' chocolate (the less added sugar the better) can be considered healthy. So relax, chuckle, and chew a little chocolate while savoring the concluding words of the University of Cambridge study:

"Based on observational evidence, levels of chocolate consumption seem to be associated with a substantial reduction in the risk of cardiometabolic disorders. Further experimental studies are required to confirm a potentially beneficial effect of chocolate consumption."

This fool may volunteer for the Cambridge crew's next experiment!

Of course, you all know by now that I'm on a refined-sugar-free diet, so I make most of my own chocolate, and I like to keep it all raw…  no cane sugar for me! I make it all with maple syrup or coconut palm sugar… I keep trying to make a stevia-sweetened chocolate… and keep failing..  But I digress…  

Ha ha ha! Hee hee hee! 

Alicia 

 

These be my sources, yo:

"Study: Laughter and Chocolate Can Boost Heart Health." Huffington Post. August 29, 2011.

"Chocolate consumption and cardiometabolic disorders: systematic review and meta-anaylsis." British Medical Journal. August 29, 2011

How many chuckles = a chinup? (No joke!)

Laugh-with-abandon_14-things-adults-can-learn-from-children Growing evidence confirms suspicions that laughter is not only fun, but good for us!  WebMD reports that laughter and moderate exercise share a host of healthful effects. According to Dr. Lee Berk's research, appetite hormones behave the same way after a good giggle as they do after a few workout reps. In science-speak: leptin goes down and grehlin goes up. Berk's volunteers watched stressful videos and hilarious videos (in no particular order) while their hormones were monitored. The results show comedy may be good for more than a chuckle.

Berk hopes his findings can assist patients who have lost their appetite. The elderly, handicapped, depressed and ill might benefit from repetitive laughter research. Overachievers may well enjoy a chortle during exercise for added benefit. Though a small study, Berk's work joins other science in supporting laughter as good medicine. More conclusive work may cause this writer to re-evaluate the association between 'cackles' and 'evil'. What can't hurt may heal!

Wanna come try laughter yoga with me?

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The original study

Laughter: The “Inner Pharmacy”

Laughter Rx Gita Fendelman is a laughter yoga instructor and member of the Tucson Laughter Club. It's been seven years since she was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, and four since she started practicing laughter yoga. Since she started laughing, she's ditched conventional medication for what she calls her "inner pharmacy" – laughter. It's all she needs to feel healthy.

Though Fendelman had been practicing Hatha yoga since 1971, her illness hindered her ability to do her traditional practice. "I heard of laughter yoga, and I figured I could still laugh," she said. She also remarked that laughter can improve many disorders aside from Parkinson's such as depression, chronic pain, sleep disorders, diabetes and arthritis. Fendelman insists that the only side effects are good ones – like when you just can't stop laughing. 

 

 

 

Laughter Heals, Once Again

Heal-mind A sisxteen-year-old girl with a rare liver disease that eventually left her paralyzed has made major steps towards recovery with laughter yoga. Unable to speak or move, the teen's family thought she would never recover a sense of humor. Yet with the help of two hospital-employed therapeutic clowns who encouraged lung and vocal chord exercises through laughter yoga, the girl started speaking and gaining back motion. The medical doctors at the hospital claim that the clowns' presence in stressful situations creates a calm environment for both the patient and the physician. One clown said, "The doctors and nurses take care of health care, we take care of the spirit". 

 

Laughter Yogis and Japanese Hypertension Research

Man-laughing Once again, scientist have found that laughter can lower blood pressure and prevent hypertension. Well, they at least observed an 'association' between the two. The exciting part of the study, is that the Japanese researchers  brought in a bunch of laughter yogis to instigate the laughing under investigation. They worked with music therapists as well, and found that the groups participating in laughing and music not only lowered their blood pressure, but were more likely to be motivated to exercise. 

Though the study requires more scrutiny, one Dr. John Ciccone, a preventive cardiologist at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in West Orange, N.J. proposed that relaxation techniques such as laughter yoga and music therapy are "not outside the mainstream anymore… I think a lot of what was considered alternative is no longer alternative."  Here I come General Hospital.  

Laughter + Leg Ulcers = Less Leg Ulcers

Laughing_woman I don't have leg ulcers. I hope I don't ever have leg ulcers. Do you have leg ulcers? I hope you don't have leg ulcers. That would totally suck. But if you do, I hope you are already laughing because that's gonna help. Read on, dear reader…

So it turns out that laughing and regular nursing care heals venous leg ulcers more effectively than ultrasound therapy.

I read this study on leg ulcers that suggests ultrasound treatment, which they used to think would help heal ulcers when used in conjunction with compression bandaging. Turns out the ultrasound doesn't help. Guess what? Big surprise, the study indicates that diet, exercise, and good blood flow is more essential to the healing process. Gee, a healthy diet and frequent exercise are at it again. I would have thought "Twinkies", but good thing we have these scientists doing studies so we know what is good for us. They said that stimulation of blood from the legs into the heart is the crucial factor in healing even ‘hard to heal’ lesions. Thus the focus is on how to get one's blood flowing. Aside from compression bandages, laughter can help the diaphragm immensley in encouraging blood circulation. Laughing is cheaper, more accessible, and a positive solution to the negative impacts on the quality of life caused by leg ulcers. May all beings be free… of leg ulcers. 

Chimps + Laughter = Social Status

CommunicationCalls We’ve all laughed at nothing in particular just to keep the conversation going. Researchers in Zambia found that chimps do too. Their study, published in Emotion, observed chimpanzees and greater apes responding to other chimps through expressions deemed laughter. Similar to the laughter in human interaction, the study found chimp laughter to be shorter when conversational, longer when spontaneous, and ultimately serve to reinforce social bonds. The study also observed chimps in new groups to mimic the laughter of the others more than chimps in their established groups. Just like our conversational giggles in a new social setting, chimps use laughs and smiles to promote communication. This suggests that chimp social behavior is more complex and similar to humans than formerly believed. Try laughing the next time you go to the zoo and see if you can crack any other primate smiles. 

 

April is National Stress Awareness Month and National Humor Month

DL-Laugh If you have been mindful of your stress levels this month, well done. April is National Stress Awareness Month and according to the Society for Vascular Surgery, laughter is a key function in reducing stress and hypertension. Fortunately, April is also National Humor Month. You may have never heard of either holiday, but they are easy enough to celebrate.  The two go hand in hand and it's as simple as laughing off your stress.  Attending my laughter yoga class is a great way to start.

Stress greatly impacts blood pressure, which can lead to high blood pressure (hypertension), and eventually, cardiovascular disease. On the contrary, Dr. Vivienne Halpern from the Society for Vascular Surgery stated that “laughter reduces the level of stress hormones (cortisol, epinephrine, dopamine, and growth hormone) and increases the level of health-enhancing hormones (endorphins and neurotransmitters)… this can result in a stronger immune system and fewer physical effects of stress.” So heed the advice of April's healthy holidays and get giggling. Maybe it'll help combat these nasty Spring colds that are going around.