MEDICAL BENEFITS OF LAUGHTER

 (An Article for the July Deep Cove Crier)
 
Recently John Ramsey from Ottawa posted on the Internet 11 reasons why he is giving up sports once and for all:  baseball in the summer, football in the fall, basketball in the winter.
  1. Every time I went, they asked for money.
  2. The people I sat next to didnít seem very friendly
  3. The seats were too hard and not comfortable at all
  4. I went to many games but the coach never came to call on me.
  5. The referees made decisions that I couldnít agree with.
  6. The game went into overtime and I was late getting home.
  7. The band played numbers Iíd never heard before and it wasnít my style of music.
  8. It seems the games are always scheduled when I want to do other things.
  9. I suspect that I was sitting next to some hypocrites.  They came to see their friends and they talked during the whole game.
  10. I was taken to too many games by my parents when I was growing up.
  11. I hate to wait in the traffic jam in the parking lot after the game."
Sometimes it seems like everything is being swept up in the midst of this Internet/ Hi Tech revolution we are living in, even the area of spirituality and church.  While cruising the WWW (World Wide Web), this gem appeared:  Psalm 23 for the Ď90s:  "The Lord is my programmer, I shall not crash.  He installed His software on the hard disk of my heart, All of His commands are user-friendly, His directory moves me to the right choices for His nameís sake.  Even though I scroll through the problems of file, I will fear no bugs, for You are my backup;  Your password protects me; You prepare a menu before me in the presence of my enemies; Your help is only a key away.  Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and my file will be merged with His and saved for ever."

Dr. Patrick Dixon MA, MBBS, is an English physician internationally respected for his creative research and analysis.  Author of three books, including The Truth about Aids, Signs of Revival, & The Genetic Revolution, Dr. Dixon recently made a stunning diagnosis of the medical benefits of laughter.  Out of five million medical research papers published around the world since the mid-1960s, Dr. Dixon discovered by Internet several hundred papers analyzing the phenomenon of laughter.  The first thing Dr. Dixon noted is that some people hardly seem to laugh at all.  Everything is taken seriously.  Such people, notes Dr. Dixon, are hard to live with and often have a tendency to be morose or depressed.  Someone who can never laugh is as emotionally imprisoned as someone who can never cry.  Doctors and nurses, commented Dr. Dixon, are now realizing that laughter is a powerful way to reduce tension and stress, creating a sense of well-being, increasing contentment and alertness, helping us place the problems and difficulties of life in context.

Medical research has discovered remarkable impacts on our hormonal levels, in response to laughter.  Laughter has been shown to shut down the "stress" hormones like cortisol, dopamine, adrenaline, and growth hormone, keeping them at lower healthier levels.  Such hormones are released when we are tense, working hard, worried, or afraid.  It is all part of the fight or flight reaction built into all of us, enabling us to either overcome an attacker or dash away to safety.  In our modern business culture, however, all the "stress hormones" are released, but no exercise follows and the body suffers.  Consequently, says Dr. Dixon, we develop stomach ulcers, our arteries clog up, we become irritable and develop many other symptoms - all because our bodies are pumping out hormones that we donít need.

Laughter is remarkably selective in what it shuts down.  In the 1992 Journal of the American Medical Association #267, Dr. W. Fry notes that the endorphin protein, a natural morphine-like substance in our bodies, seems to remain constant in laughter, even as the stress hormones are being shut down.  Virtually all of us learn to laugh at four months of age, something which requires the action of fifteen facial muscles and changes in breathing.  When we laugh, at first the heart rate increases as does our rate of breathing.  After our laughter ceases, there is a period of relaxation, easing muscle tension and useful in breaking the muscle spasm in some neuralgias and rheumatism.  It has been estimated that 100 good laughs are equivalent to 10 minutes of rowing.  Dr. James Walsh, in his book Laughter & Health, described laughter as a massaging of all the organs within the body.  Cumulative laughter throughout the day, says Dr. Fry, may be significantly greater than that of an average marathon.  He describes laughter physiologically as an aerobic experience, an internal stationary jogging!

Laughter, comments Dr. Dixon, also aids lung ventilation, helping people with chest problems to clear congestion.  Research by Dr. McClelland, Dillan & Baker shows that laughter significantly increased levels of salivary immunoglobin A, a vital immune system protein which protects us against respiratory illnesses.  Dr. W. Fry at the 4th International Conference on Humour in Israel noted that laughter improves alertness, memory, learning, & creativity by releasing catecholamines into our body.  Laughter also has a measurable impact on reducing high blood pressure.

Why are we often attracted to others with a good sense of humour?  Because we seem to intuitively know that the ability to see the absurd, the ridiculous and the entertaining in the serious and trivial helps keep us mentally stable and healthy.  Somehow the burdens of overwork, excess responsibility, and the grief of life can fall off our shoulders, as laughter lightens our hearts.  Perhaps that is why the old proverb reminds us that there is a time to weep and a time to laugh.  Since Elias Antonas has been on the North Shore over a 3 month period of nightly renewal meetings, many North Shore residents have been discovering afresh that life can be enjoyable, and that Jesus brings lasting joy.  My prayer from Psalm 126 for the Deep Cove/Seymour community is that our mouths may be filled with laughter and our tongues with songs of joy.

Reverend Ed Hird,
Rector, St. Simonís Anglican Church
 


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