History Revisited: Humorous treatment!!
By Ruchira Dhoke
Laughter is the tonic, the relief, the surcease for pain.
Phylogenetically laughter ages back to 7 million years ago and has been thought to have a communicative function preceding other forms of vocalisations, such as moaning, sighing, and crying. Crying and laughing are both considered as innate mechanisms in humans. Whereas crying emerges at birth and smiling at approximately 2 or 3 weeks of age, the characteristic expiratory movement of laughter does not appear until approximately 4–6 months.
Humour is infectious, the sound of laughter far more contagious and best of all its priceless fun, and easy to use.
Capacity to chuckle starts in the brain
Laughter can be defined as a complex emotional response to one’s external stimuli. It is one of the most complicated things that our body produces since it’s not we who choose to laugh. A roaring bout of laughter invoked while watching a stand-up comedy is involuntary based on how our brain processes what we hear and see. It’s the limbic system of the brain that sets in motion the physical reaction of laughter.
The words “humour” and “laughter” are often used in similar contexts and often interchangeably. Humour is a reaction to a stimulus such as a joke whereas laughter is a physical reaction characterised by a distinct sound with facial expression and contraction of facial muscles.
Although the ability to perceive and produce humour is highly valued across human societies, it is seldom achieved in its maximum capacity.
Healing through humour
Medicine is categorically science but it’s not just confined to an abstract pursuit of knowledge. It can also be defined as a form of art, or craft or just simple plain humour since the aim is to primarily help people in their pursuit of health.
We have been hearing the idiom “Laughter is the best medicine” for ages now, the phrase originally derived from the Bible, chapter 17, verse 22 which reads “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones”.
The earliest reference to humour therapy is dated back to the fourteenth century written by the French surgeon Henri de Mondeville as, “Let the surgeon take care to regulate the whole regimen of the patient’s life for joy and happiness, allowing his relatives and special friends to cheer him, and by having someone tell him jokes.” Martin Luther, in the sixteenth century used humour therapy as a part of his pastoral counselling of depressed people.
Modernization in humour therapy was seen in the 1930s in the form of clowns which were brought to hospitals to cheer children suffering from polio. A book published in 1979, Anatomy of an Illness by Norman Cousins, highlighted the importance of humour as a form of therapy by providing the details of the case where he used laughter to help ease pain while undergoing treatment for a debilitating disease of the spine also known as ankylosing spondylitis. But it was not until 1995 that laughter was considered as a form of an exercise and emerged as laughter yoga or laughter clubs.
Laughing – a micro-workout
A study has clinically correlated that genuine voiced laughter causes a 10–20% increase in EE (energy expenditure) and HR (heart rate) above resting values, which means that 10–15 minutes of laughter per day could increase total EE by 10–40 kJ (2–10 kcal).
Laughing – immunity booster
Laughing is said to strengthen our immune system by producing antibodies and improve natural killer cell activity that help in increased resistance to diseases like cancer.
Laughing – a stress buster
A study conducted by Canadian Professor Rod Martin in 1979 supported a theory that people with a strong sense of humour were less prone to becoming anxious or depressed. Laughing can also reduce your blood pressure.
Hi, myself Ruchira Dhoke. Although qualified to be a medical microbiologist, I prefer the role of a mother the most. I read voraciously and thus writing invokes a natural passion in me. Putting my thoughts into words is something I enjoy thoroughly and if those words are read, understood and followed then that’s the best form of gratitude for me.
Happy reading and keep seeking!!