Send by email

your name: email to: message:
Username: Email: Password: Confirm Password:
Login with
Confirming registration ...

Edit your profile:

Country: Town: State:
Gender: Birthday:
Email: Web:
How do you describe yourself:
Password: New password: Repite password:

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Is laughter good or bad for health?

Por Nina

Laughter is the best medicine. It is impossible to feel stressed when you laugh. Laughter has proven to be beneficial to health in many ways. When we laugh, everything inside changes. Our blood pressure decreases and there are many benefits for the heart. Several studies have indicated that laughing can reduce the production of the stress hormone, cortisol, and decrease the tension in the heart. In addition, it lowers the level of sugar in the blood (which is good for diabetics), promotes blood flow and stimulates the immune system. One study says that, in terms of cardiovascular exercise, a minute of laughter equals 10 minutes on a rowing machine.

As a result, the use of laughter therapy is becoming more common, particularly with children. It has been proven, for example, that a clown's visit before surgery is very effective in reducing anxiety. Margaret Stuber, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of California, UCLA, did experiments in which groups of children put their hands in ice water. She found that if they were watching funny videos, they tolerated the pain better and described the experience as "less unpleasant". In addition, they had lower levels of the stress hormone.

The idea that laughter is therapeutic was popularized by Norman Cousins in an article published in 1976 by the New England Journal of Medicine, which later expanded as a book. The word "agelastic" means "without laughter", and is derived from the Greek gelos (laughter). Among the known agelasts is Isaac Newton, who supposedly only laughed once in his life, when someone asked him what was the use of studying Euclid. In that list of little laughs there are also the Soviet leader Iósif Stalin; the author of "The Trips of Gulliver", Jonathan Swift; the four times British Prime Minister W.E. Gladstone; and the Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza, who is said to only laugh when he observed spiders beating to death. Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope, in contrast, died laughing.

Robert Proine, a behavioral neurobiologist at the University of Maryland, USA, studies female and male laughter patterns "in the wild," making urban safaris to shopping centers and student unions, and has documented 1,200 "episodes of laugh". He concludes that women laugh more than men and that both sexes laugh more about what men do than what women do. Provine points out that "limited multicultural evidence indicates that men are the main producers of humor and women are the main producers of laughter." Those differences are already present by the time we start making jokes for the first time, which happens more or less at the age of 6 years.

Provine observed that women laugh much more often than the men they are talking to. "When chatting, women laugh more, no matter what their audience is, men are fussier: they laugh more when they talk to their friends than when the audience is female." He also noticed that those who talk laugh 46% more than those who listen, and that people laugh about 30 times more when they are accompanied than when they are alone. This supports the theory that the primary function of laughter is social.

But laughter is not always good. The lack of control of the impulse of laughter can be harmful, because of the risk of triggering asthma attacks, incontinence or that contributes to developing hernias and ulcers. Both the Romans and the Chinese used tickling as torture. The former specialized in a particularly unpleasant practice known as "goat tongue," in which the victim's suspended feet were covered with salt for the goats to lick. In 1962, in the Bukoba district of Tanzania, an epidemic of spontaneous laughter broke out among the children, which forced the temporary closure of 14 schools. Family and friends got infected: the closer the relationship was, the more likely they were to "get infected".

Spontaneous laughter originates in the oldest part of our brainstem, which means we cannot control it consciously. Our ability to laugh probably precedes talking for hundreds of thousands of years. Also, it's not something you learn: people who are both deaf and blind also laugh. Gelotologists (who study laughter) point out that it is not so much an expression, but that the intention of laughter is to provoke positive feelings in others, which promotes the feeling of cohesion in the groups. That may have helped us survive as a species.