👋 How Can We Help Make Health Care Better?
How true is the saying “laughter is the best medicine?” Turns out that adage may be truer than you think, and research is backing it up.
Studies show that laughter makes us feel better, by reducing anxiety and helping us cope during challenging times. A peek at the science behind a good chuckle reveals that laughter has a measurable effect on our physiology. When we laugh, our brain releases neuromodulators and endorphins1 that help reduce stress and pain, while lowering the level of stress-inducing cortisol2. In addition to boosting the immune system, laughter can increase our pain tolerance3 and improve vascular function4.
Laughter Helps Those with Parkinson’s
Beyond improving our mood, research indicates that laughter can indeed be good medicine for treating debilitating diseases such as Parkinson’s. In one study conducted by researchers from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, participants with Parkinson’s disease showed significant improvements in activities of daily living after honing their humor skills in a 12-week improv course.
“As mobility [in people with Parkinson’s] becomes limited, spontaneity of thought and action also becomes impaired,” explained one of the researchers. “Because the success of an improv scene requires an element of risk-taking, playfulness, and support, the personal development benefits of practicing may include a greater ability to ‘live in the moment’ and focus.”5
Welcome Those Laugh Lines
Laughter seems to play a role in reducing cardiovascular disease among older adults, as well. In another study, researchers in Japan analyzed data collected from over 20,934 individuals aged 65 years and older. After adjusting for risk factors, the researchers found that people who said they never or almost never laughed had 1.21 times higher occurrence of heart disease, and 1.6 times higher risk for stroke than their peers who reported laughing daily.
The researchers were also quick to point out that those who tend to laugh more often may have a more positive outlook on life and may be more inclined to embrace healthy habits like exercise, proper nutrition, and low alcohol consumption — all of which can contribute to increased wellness. Conversely, those who struggle with pain, chronic illness or mental health disorders may be less likely to find an occasion to laugh6.
Let’s Hear It for Humor Therapy
Can laughing help keep us young of heart — as well as healthy of heart? The research seems to indicate it can. According to a study published in the Journal of Aging Research, humor therapy has shown to be an effective intervention for chronic pain among the elderly. In the study, a group of nursing home residents participated in an 8-week humor program. Over the course of the program, participants created scrapbooks of happy memories, heard and told jokes, and took part in fun activities and games7.
When compared to a control group who did not participate in a humor program, the first group showed significant reductions in pain scores and loneliness measures, as well as increases in happiness and life satisfaction scores7.
Said one researcher following these encouraging results, “Regardless of their physical condition, patients need to allow themselves to be happy, to let humor play a greater role in their lives, and to enjoy life.”7
Sounds like excellent advice. Being happy requires surrounding yourself with people who make you laugh and bring you joy. It also means finding a healthcare partner who, like the ones caring for those nursing home patients, understands the importance of mental and emotional wellbeing on our physical health.
If you’re looking for such a partner, give us a call at (800) 467-4898. We’ll help replace the stress of health plan shopping with a smile.