Get Serious about Laughing: Giggling is Good for You!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012 9:28 AM

Laughter-YogaRemember the last time you had a good laugh? How about that feeling of amusement you get when you anticipate witnessing something funny? Mirth—otherwise known as merriment and glee—has been the recent subject of research. While still in its infancy, some of the studies’ early results might surprise you.

John Chamness, a licensed massage therapist at NorthShore’s Integrative Medicine program lists some of the recent findings behind mirth.  After watching funny movies, participants experienced the following health benefits:

  • Significantly lowered risk of a second heart attack in men who combined watching 30 minutes a day with standard cardio rehab
  • Increased beneficial blood vessel relaxation
  • Influenced the expression of genes, including turning on genes related to immune function
  • Reduced water loss from skin in elderly men with atopic dermatitis (dry skin)
  • Short-term improvement of erectile dysfunction

Are these the effects of the state of mirth, or the laughter that is often a result? Regardless, you don't have to wait for something funny to enjoy a laugh; laughter can be prolonged as a deliberate behavior.

In Laughter Yoga—a social movement that began in India and is catching on here—participants alternate 45 – 60 seconds of deliberate, sustained laughter with deep breathing and brief stretching for a total of 30 minutes. After seven sessions over three weeks, Laughter Yoga participants had significantly lowered their blood pressure.

During sustained laughter (through Laughter Yoga or not), the diaphragm increases from working an average of 12 times per minute during regular breathing to 300 forceful times per minute. Over 20 minutes of sustained laughter accounts for 6,000 contractions. That’s quite a workout!

So, what’s the key take away? Be serious in your pursuit of health, but don't always pursue health with seriousness.

What makes you laugh? Have you ever participated in a Laughter Yoga session?

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