We’ve all heard the phrase, “Laughter is the best medicine.” Readers Digest has been telling us this for years, but until recently there was no real evidence to back up the claim. This book discusses the exciting findings scientists have obtained over the past 25 years for how your sense of humor supports good physical and mental health. A separate chapter discusses humor and the brain.
The first studies of humor and health demonstrated humor’s ability to strengthen the immune system, reduce pain and reduce levels of stress hormones circulating in the body. These general health-promoting benefits led researchers to study the impact of humor and laughter on specific diseases. This exciting new work has now shown health benefits of humor in connection with coronary heart disease, asthma, COPD, arthritis, certain allergies and diabetes.
The two cerebral hemispheres of the brain are shown to play different roles in our understanding and enjoyment of humor. Also, specific dopamine-based pleasure centers in the brain have now been identified which account for the good feeling that results from humor and a good belly laugh.
The key to understanding humor’s contribution to health and wellness is its ability to both build more positive emotion into your life and reduce feelings of anger, anxiety and depression. Humor helps provide the emotional resilience needed to meet the challenges presented by steadily increasing stress in our personal and work lives. It is a powerful tool for coping with any form of life stress, and a means of sustaining a positive, optimistic attitude toward life. And it’s never too late to improve your sense of humor. The companion to this book, Humor as Survival Training for a Stressed-Out World (also published by AuthorHouse), presents a hands-on program for learning to use humor to cope.
Impact of Humor and Laughter on
The first 15-20 years of research on the health benefits of humor and laughter focused on the general health promoting mechanisms just discussed. By the beginning of the new century, these promising health-promoting findings stimulated interest in humor’s impact on specific disease conditions.
Coronary Heart Disease
Impact of Humor. While the research specifically looking at the impact of humor on heart health has only recently begun, what has been done is consistent with the findings discussed above for other sources of positive emotion and suggests that humor can play an important role in promoting cardiac health in both healthy individuals and those who have already suffered a heart attack. . . .
2) Facilitating Recovery from Heart Disease
Keeping your sense of humor is also important for heart health when you’ve already suffered a heart attack. This is a real challenge, since such life-threatening events generally rob people of their sense of humor and fun in life. People who had already suffered a myocardial infarction (heart attack) were randomly assigned to two groups before going through a standard cardiac rehab program for an entire year. Some patients just went through the regular rehab program, going to the hospital three times a week. Others also watched a comedy video while they were there for their rehab procedure. Each patient got to choose the video watched, so they presumably selected one that was funny to them.
At the end of one year, the comedy-watching group had suffered significantly fewer additional heart attacks during the 12-month period, along with fewer episodes of cardiac arrhythmia.182 As noted earlier, the patients who watched comedy videos also had significantly lower blood pressure (there were no blood pressure differences between the groups at the beginning of the study). So humor plays an important role in promoting ca
Paul McGhee has a PhD in Psychology and is internationally known for his own research on humor, having published many scientific articles and 11 books on humor. He spent 20 years conducting basic research on humor and laughter and is generally viewed as a pioneer in the field.
He now works full time as a professional speaker and is President of The Laughter Remedy, in Wilmington, Delaware. He is at the cutting edge of the current movement to put humor to work in healthcare settings and corporations. He shows physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals how to use humor to 1) cope with the growing pace of change and uncertainty in the healthcare system and 2) build the resilience needed to remain productive and provide quality care and service in the midst of growing job stress. In corporate settings, he shows how humor provides the emotional resilience needed to meet the challenges provided increasing work demands.
Dr. McGhee is internationally recognized as an authority on the physical and mental health benefits associated with humor. He has provided humor programs in 12 countries. His work has been featured in the Scientific American: Mind, the New York Times, USA Today, The Learning Channel, PBS, Dutch, Swiss and German television, and German, French, Swiss, Norwegian, Japanese and Italian magazines and newspapers.
His hands-on humor skills training program is the only program of its kind. It shows how to develop the basic skills required to use humor to become more effective in your work and cope with job stress. The program has been shown to be effective in four countries.
For additional information Dr. McGhee's keynotes, as well as both a discussion of research on the health and coping benefits of humor and guidelines for improving your own humor skills, see his web site at www.LaughterRemedy.com.