Laughter As Therapy
Naturally, we as a people dislike feeling bad and like feeling good. Two examples of common things that make us feel bad are sickness and sadness. Common remedies for those things are medicine and humor. Though medicine and humor seem different at first glance, they share very important commonalities; they make us feel good and are key influences on a culture. This connection between health and humor has intrigued scientists for years. Recently, scientists have begun seriously investigating the relationship between the two. More specifically, if laughter is capable of contributing to the field of medicine. Many scientists have reason to believe that laughter could have a significant effect as a therapeutic medicine, whether it be through the physical act of laughing, or through the effects of changing hormone levels. Therefore, the goal of this essay is to educate the readers on the development and experimentation of laughter used as therapeutic medicine in the past, present, and future.
Laughter is an age-old, natural human reaction to humor that elicits a feeling comparable with euphoria. For 2,000 years, people have been baffled by why laughter causes humans to feel so good. (Gorman, 2011) In fact, the benefits of humor and laughter are even recognized in Proverbs 17:22 of the Bible, “A cheerful heart does good like a medicine: but a broken spirit makes one sick.” (The Nurse’s Handbook of Complementary Therapies, 2001) Some cultures, such as the Mayans, have practiced humor in medicine for thousands of years. Specifically, the Mayan healer, Don Elijio Panti, whom lived until he was 103, was described as much of a clown as a doctor. Panti believed that a happy patient was a healthy patient. Without a positive attitude, the patient was less likely to recover from their sickness. He utilized humor techniques, such as making jokes, teasing, and telling stories with dancing and other body movements, to lighten the mood of his patients. Panti once said, “A person's spirit needs to be uplifted as much as the body needs to be healed. And without an uplifted spirit I don't think there is enough energy within the body or enough vital force for a person to properly and completely experience healing.” (Balick & Lee, 2003)
Many considerable strides have been made since the time of the Mayans. Today, scientists have reason to believe that laughter could be therapeutically beneficial in ways such as a relief from pain and stress, an improvement in immunity, and a useful tool for nurses in treating patients. (Nurse’s Handbook of Complementary Therapies, 2001) I will analyze these claims in the following three paragraphs.
On September 13th, 2011, the New York Times published an article entitled “Scientists Hint at Why Laughter Feels So Good” by James Gorman that contained results of a pivotal experiment in the field of laughter studies conducted by Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist at Oxford University, and his colleagues. Dunbar and Co. conducted five studies in the laboratory by testing subjects’ pain tolerance after fits of laughter. Dunbar had his subjects watch “excerpts of comedy videos and neutral videos, or videos meant to promote good feeling but not laughter.” The comedy videos included excerpts from the popular television shows, “The Simpsons,” “Friends” and “South Park”. Neutral videos included a documentary on pet training and a program on golf. The videos meant to elicit good feelings, but not laughter, included excerpts from television shows about nature such as “Planet Earth” and “Jungles.” They inflicted pain in their subjects via a blood pressure cuff, a freezing wine sleeve across the fore arm, or a demanding ski exercise. Participants were tested before and after watching a series of the aforementioned videos. When suffering the various inflicted pains subjects were instructed to indicate when the pain became unbearable. All events that occurred...
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