Laughing Your Way to Good Health: The Power of Laughter Therapy
Laughter is the Best Medicine ♫
There is another side to happiness, which is unbelievable to everyone who lacks faith in its true power: Being truly happy can actually save your life.
The Cancer Treatment Centre of America (CTCA) that uses laughter therapy (humour therapy) to promote overall health and wellness, using the natural psychological process of laughter to remove physical or emotional stresses and discomfort.
Humour has been in use for many years as a distraction for patients, taking their attention from unpleasant procedures. In more recent times, Norman Cousins, a man who had been suffering from an incurable illness for many years, devized a unique therapy involving laughter and vitamin pills, which consequently delivered him a full recovery. He mentioned that he would spend many hours a day watching comedic movies to incite laughter, taking his mind off the illness and curing him.
When it comes to people living with cancer, it almost seems nonsensical to be laughing about something so serious. Yet, at the CTCA, they have uncovered a plethora of new ways to fight the disease, through the use of laughter.
Laughter can instantly help you feel better about yourself and the world around you. When you heartily laugh (try this for yourself), no other thought comes to mind, you are, for those few seconds, free from any troubles. Genuine laughter is a natural diversion. Laughter can induce physical changes in the body and, after laughing for a few minutes, this can keep you feeling better for hours. Dopamine, which I’ll keep mentioning, is also playing a role here.
There are cases of individuals who have trusted solely in the power of laughter to cure them from cancer. Most people at the CTCA, though, use a combination of laughter, positive thinking and medication to rid themselves of the disease. I am in no way advising you to refuse scientifically proven medical treatment to cure you from an ailment, that would just be foolish. What I am suggesting you do, though, with evidence to back it up, is to combine treatments. That way the two will work together. At any rate, if you’re going to get through it, there is no better way than by maintaining happiness in the process.
According to the studies conducted by the CTCA, laughter therapy may also provide physical benefits. Undergroundhealthreporter.com, a great website, lists some of these as helping to: ‘boost the immune system and circulatory system; enhance oxygen intake; stimulate the heart and lungs; relax muscles throughout the body; trigger the release of endorphins (the body’s natural painkillers); ease digestion/soothe stomach aches; relieve pain; balance blood pressure; and improve mental functions (i.e., alertness, memory, creativity)’.
Laughter therapy may also help to; Improve overall attitude, Reduce stress/tension, Promote relaxation, Improve sleep, Enhance quality of life, Strengthen social bonds and relationships, Produce a general sense of well-being.
So basically, happiness is good for your health. So what’s the prescription?”
I came across this quote from Henry Thoreau, an American naturist poet, saying that: ‘Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you. But if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and softly sit on your shoulder’. I can understand that in certain circumstances but I also think that it has a very negative connotation attached to it. It effectively says that you can’t will happiness into being. Of course you can. I’ve recently put this to the test and achieved exactly what Thoreau says would evade me. On top of this, maintaining happiness requires a level of commitment and a choice. Using the visualisation process mentioned in the 4 core mindfulness, meditation techniques blog, of clearing your mind and then imagining and focusing on a massive happy smile at the front of your head, your brain will release the appropriate chemicals to inject a loving, happy feeling.
It comes down to this. There are four known naturally occurring substances or hormones that have been scientifically proven to influence happiness, which can all be activated in a variety of different ways. The names of the chemicals conveniently spell out the word D.O.S.E, which is exactly what you want. A dose of happiness: Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin and Endorphins.
This compound is in charge of the pleasure-reward system. It helps us to plan ahead, boosting our drive, focus and concentration. It give us the immense satisfaction of accomplishing tasks, instilling the ‘thrill of the chase’ feeling in all aspects of life; be that in sport, business or love. It allows us sensations of bliss, enjoyment and euphoria, all of which are linked to happiness. Too little dopamine, however, instils a distinct lack of zest for life, exhibiting low energy and motivation and leading to a dependence on caffeine, sugar or other performance-enhancing stimulants. Dopamine deficiency and depression are closely linked with some obvious symptoms, so be sure to seek professional help if you are experiencing a high level of the following:
lack of motivation
inability to feel pleasure
Individuals low on dopamine often compensate for their deficiency by taking part in self-destructive behaviours to get a dopamine boost, including consumption of alcohol, caffeine and abuse of drugs. Excessive sugar consumption, sex, shopping, video games, online porn, smoking, power, gambling or internet use are other common practises.
There are healthy ways to naturally increase your dopamine levels, for example engaging yourself in something new. So, why not learn a new language or take up the piano? Whatever you choose, the process of learning (effort+reward) will elevate your dopamine levels. You don’t have to restrict your dopamine allowance to your free time, so push yourself to finish a project at work, or land yourself a new account. Any form of accomplishment that gives you that ‘yes, I’ve done it’ feeling will increase your dopamine levels considerably. Put simply, If you want to get a hit of dopamine, set a goal and achieve it.
Dopamine is made in part from the amino acid tyrosine, so eating a diet rich in this will give you a good basis for successful dopamine management. Try to manage your intake of these foods, to help increase your happiness.
green leafy vegetables
sesame and pumpkin seeds
all animal products”
Oxytocin is a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland. It has many descriptions and, according to medicalnewstoday.com, is ‘widely referred to as either the love hormone, the hug hormone, the cuddle chemical, the moral molecule, or the bliss hormone’, due to its effects on our behaviour. It is released in both males and females during intercourse and by mothers during childbirth. It is also a hormone that is released during close contact with other human beings and even through companionship with animals, dogs in particular (owing to the high levels of affection they exhibit towards us). It is a hormone that shows its true colours through interactions and proximity with loved ones, or through an altruistic act. If you are in need of an oxytocin hit, a simple cuddle can be all it takes. The next time you receive a gift from a loved one, your oxytocin levels will rise, which is why you feel so compassionate and loving. These feelings, in turn, help to elevate your happiness.
If you’re feeling lonely, depressed or unhappy, your serotonin levels will be very low. Only when you feel significant and important will this compound, the absence of which is responsible for your poor state of mind. It has been suggested that the reason people join gangs is that the experiences they encounter as part of that lifestyle cause the brain to produce enough serotonin to make them feel self-worth, where nothing else in their lives does. There are plenty of other ways for you to increase your serotonin levels, however, without having to sign your life away to a bunch of tear-aways hell bent on causing misery and unhappiness for everyone except themselves. Try challenging yourself regularly and seek out situations that will emphasise a sense of purpose, meaning and accomplishment. Being able to say ‘I did it’, reinforces a sense of self-esteem, making you feel less insecure and creating an upward spiral of serotonin development.
Endorphin literally means self-produced morphine, a great thing to be manufacturing within yourself. Endorphins are mainly produced during times of pain and stress and help to alleviate anxiety and depression, preventing us from being unhappy.
The simplest way to produce endorphins is to laugh. Even the anticipation and expectation of a comedy show or a funny film, produces enough endorphins for you to have a jolly good time. With laughter comes happiness. The best way of harnessing this chemical is to exercise. They have found a way to release it through acupuncture but I’ve never really been into having needles stuck in me. Endorphins, like dopamine, are produced by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus during strenuous physical exercise, sexual intercourse and orgasm. So it doesn’t all have to be gruelling toil on your lonesome, you can get your other half to join in the fun. The more intense the exercise, the bigger endorphin hit you will receive.
Luckily for us, endorphins aren’t just released in one fell swoop at the moment of physical stress; the hit will slowly release itself during your body’s recovery, transmitting a euphoric, calm and peaceful state.
During my research for this blog, I came across an incredible book entitled, Be Happy! Release the Power of Happiness in YOU, by Robert Holden. The vast majority of what I have experienced and researched on happiness is described in this book and so I will cover what I believe are the most important aspects for picking yourself up in these blogs on happiness. That said, I highly recommend getting yourself a copy of his book, because you can never learn too much about one of the most important aspects of being human.
The following blog will cover more ways to activate happiness within yourself but I want to separate each part in order to simplify the processes and to not overload you. That said, a huge part of my life coaching helps individuals to reconnect with their happy selves, so if you are struggling with your life in any way, please contact me and I will happily see if we can work together by offering a complimentary 30 minute video call. If you are struggling, do not hesitate to get in contact with me.
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