Laughter is the Best Medicine
By Jill Kruse, D.O.
It is often said that laughter is the best medicine, yet I have never written a prescription for a funny movie, or a television comedy show, and I have no clowns or rubber chickens in my office. On the contrary, doctors are often expected to be serious and professional. Perhaps we are missing a great opportunity to help heal. What if more doctors were like Dr. Patch Adams, who is known by the medical community for his quest to inject humor and laughter into the treatment of patients?
In medicine we work to cure disease. To cure means “to eliminate all evidence of disease.” However, there is a second goal that we also have and that is to heal. To heal means “to become whole by strengthening the mind and spirit to improve the quality of life, even if, or when, no physical cure is possible.” Laughter helps us heal. There have been multiple studies on what happens to the human body when we laugh. Research has been done on the importance of laughter from children to the elderly and no matter the age, laughter is the best medicine.
Due to the mind-body connection, laughing can aid your brain in producing chemicals that help your heart work better and pump more evenly. Laughing can assist in reducing pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers. A deep belly laugh benefits and enhances your intake of air, which stimulates the lungs and muscles. Laughter helps boost your body’s immune system to help you prevent and fight off infections. It can also lower your stress level and give you more energy.
According to the American Heart Association, research has shown that laughing can decrease stress hormones, reduce artery inflammation, and increase your HDL (good cholesterol). Who knew that a laugh could do so much good? A study on adults age 65 and older in Japan showed that even after adjustment for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, depression, weight, and other risk factors, the frequency of heart diseases among those who never or almost never laughed was 1.21 times higher than those who reported laughing every day. In the same study, the risk of having a stroke was 1.60 times higher for those who almost never laughed compared to those who were full of mirth.
So, I will leave you with a few “treatments” to help improve your health today. Why did the pillow go to the doctor? Because he was feeling all stuffed up. Why did the cookie go to the hospital? He was feeling really crumby. Does an apple a day keep the doctor away? Only if you aim it well enough. Did you hear the one about the germ? Never mind; I don’t want to spread it around. Laughter is one medicine for which there is no maximum dose. Laugh often and well for a happy and healthy life.
Jill Kruse, D.O. is part of The Prairie Doc® team of physicians and currently practices family medicine in Brookings, South Dakota. For free and easy access to the entire Prairie Doc® library, visit www.prairiedoc.org and follow Prairie Doc® on Facebook featuring On Call with the Prairie Doc® a medical Q&A show streaming on Facebook and broadcast on SDPB most Thursdays at 7 p.m. central.