Laughter: The Best Medicine
Laughter is the best medicine.
We’ve all heard this line before, multiple times throughout our lives. But does this advice actually hold merit? Recent studies show that laughter definitely brings many healing factors to the body. It reduces pain, increases resilience, boosts immunity, and decreases blood sugar levels which causes the stress response.
The main problems that cancer patients report during the period of their cancer treatment are pain, stress, and depression. The solution to these problems: laughter. Surprisingly, laughter tackles all three of these problems that cancer patients report having the most trouble with. A study published online found that laughing increased pain thresholds due to the increased production of endorphins, which are hormones in the body that relieve pain. Volunteers were inflicted pain by placing a freezing wine sleeve over their forearms or tightening a blood pressure off as they watched different genres of videos, ranging from serious documentaries, comedy videos, and even live performances. Scientists then tracked the correlation between the volunteer’s laughter and the amount of pain they could withstand. The results of this study suggested that people who had been laughing had a higher tolerance for pain.
These results brought upon a new, innovative way to help cancer patients. Laughter therapy, or humor therapy, is the use of humor to promote overall health and wellness. Laughter therapy sessions are incorporated into a treatment plan to encourage optimistic thinking and joyful feelings that support and even accelerate the healing process. The natural, psychological process of laughter helps relieve the stress, pain, and depression that cancer patients often struggle against.
The Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) is an example of a treatment center that uses laughter therapy to cope with cancer. CTCA offers humor therapy sessions to help cancer patients and their families use and enjoy laughing as a tool for healing. Similar to many laughter therapy sessions, laughter is not actually caused through humor or jokes. Rather, it is used as a physical exercise. For example, one activity consists of patients putting their fingertips on their cheekbones or chest and making “ha ha” sounds until they feel the vibrations of their laughter through their bodies. Dr. Pucket, a lead doctor at CTCA, claims “During these exercises, it is hard for people not to join in because laughter is so contagious.”
Both the patient’s reactions and the results of this therapy session were positive. Patients have claimed that they did not even think about cancer throughout the session and that it was great to laugh after being in a state of depression for months. Even an 8-year old who attended a humor therapy session praised the effectiveness of this healing method: “I never thought about laughing every day, but now I realize I can. Like even when I don’t feel happy, I can still laugh and feel better.”
Cancer is definitely no laughing matter. However, if laughter can help the process of treating cancer, why not give a humor therapy session a try?
About the Author:
Joshua Moon is an intern at PHLBI who is interested in participating in biomedical research and exploring the medical field. He will be a senior at Oxford Academy in the 2017-2018 school year. Previously, he has participated in the research of the West Nile Virus and has been part of a biomedical class for two years. Joshua is an Eagle Scout and loves to play volleyball.