Joy connects us all – the formula for good health: show your most beautiful smile more often
The experts from Naturheilzentrum Bottrop also confirm that there is no better medicine than laughter.
Laughter makes you beautiful. It keeps us healthy, relaxed and helps us to relieve stress. There is a long list of positive features associated with laughter. Meanwhile, there is even a separate science, which focuses on laughter and its therapeutic effect. The subject area is called ‘gelotology’. For about 40 years, the effects of the laughter on both our physical and our mental health have been brought into focus from a scientific perspective. There are currently around 200 gelotologists working on scientifically-based studies.
Laughter lets the happiness hormone bubble up
William Fry, a neurologist at Stanford University in California can be classed as the father of gelotology. He had already begun to explore the effects of laughter by the late 1960s. He produced evidence that endorphins, so-called ‘happiness hormones’, are released when we laugh. The exchange of gases in the lungs increases by three to four times in comparison to our resting state, and we breathe much deeper. Heart, muscles and nerves are warmed up and later relaxed. Laughter exercises us quite well, as Fry also discovered. And it is physically demanding. One minute of laughter has an effect that is comparable to 15 minutes of jogging.
Another pioneer of laughter research is Paul McGhee. The psychologist was able to demonstrate in the 1970s that the pain tolerance can be increased by laughing. And laughter also does a lot for our immune system. The American neuro-immonologist, Lee Berk has conducted research at Loma Linda university, California, into the extent to which intense laughter affects the activity of our natural killer cells and antibodies. His results were astonishing: they become much more active, allowing our immune system to run at full speed.
Robin Williams as Hunter “Patch” Adams
The ‘clinic clowns’ make use of the feelgood effect of laughter as a mood lifter and energy supplier in many places in Germany. The movement goes back to Dr. Hunter “Patch” Adams, the doctor who was born in Washington in 1945. With his approach – he pressed for more humor for successful medical treatments – he even made it onto the silver screen. His life was filmed with Robin Williams in the title role. In 1972, Adams founded the ‘Gesundheit!’ institute. It has already provided free medical care to thousands of People with its holistic approach. “His commitment and his way of thinking are unique”, say the naturopaths Farid Zitoun and Christian Rüger from Naturheilzentrum Bottrop. “Especially the connection between traditional hospitals and alternative medicine. Conventional medical knowledge is combined with acupuncture and other traditional naturopathic treatment procedures.” An approach that Bottrop-based health experts have been pursuing for over two decades in their complementary-medicine center.
Visits without a stethoscope
But Adams was also a professional clown, so his work was not allowed to lack humor. Its health-promoting effect was clear to the medical doctor. His movement has been emulated around the world. Every Wednesday, the clinic clowns pay visits to the pediatric clinic at Essen University Hospital. They do not have a stethoscope around their necks when they visit, and no medication with them. They want to make the little patients laugh. Even in a place where there is not much to laugh at. They want to help children, to prevent them from losing their courage to face life. Despite serious illnesses, despite the separation from friends and the usual environment. The clown duo can bring color into the dreary hospital day with just their costumes. Cheeky sayings, good mood, and funny songs also form part of the therapy plan.
Clowns don’t just help children
“The concept of clinic clowns works,” says Farid Zitoun. The naturopath knows from his own long, practical experience that such positive experiences are not only important for little patients. “It’s nice that so many People in our country support the movement and get involved in it – Personally or actively.” The clowns don’t just do the children good. The parent organization ‘Clowns in Medizin und Pflege in Deutschland e.V.’ has information about the range of clown services: they visit senior citizens, People with a disability, severely ill adults, and palliative stations.
“The clowns are specially trained. They bring a lot with them: empathy, observation skills, and Human maturity, artistic talent and the ability to clown around,” says Christian Rüger. The naturopath knows how important distraction, excitement and exhilarative impulses are for the patients. “For both little ones and big ones.” laughter is good medicine. A medicine which is completely free from disturbing side effects, and supports many treatments in a positive way. 15 minutes of laughter keeps us healthy. The American scientist Michael Miller, Head of a US study at the University of Maryland, found this out when researching this topic. A single minute of laughter, says Miller, is followed by the body relaxing for 45 minutes. There could scarcely be a simpler way of relieving stress.
There should be more laughter in Germany
But in Germany, there is clearly not enough laughter. On average, each of us has about six minutes of it every day. This is not enough to be able to make use of the circulatory-system-promoting effect of laughter. Do we have too little to laugh about? We cannot fight against it as our brain receives a corresponding stimulus, forcing us to laugh. This means hard work for the body, at first. Hundreds of muscles are involved, from facial muscles to breathing muscles. The whole body is involved when we break out into full laughter.
The researchers at the University of Maryland have discovered which processes laughter specifically releases in our bodies https://www.umms.org/ummc. The scientists thereby worked with film sequences, which they showed test subjects. Quite different sequences: a drama followed by a comedy. The researchers measured the blood flow in the upper arm artery of the test subjects before and after the film screening. The result was clear. The blood flow improved in 19 out of 20 test subjects after watching the funny film scenes. It was a different story after the drama: the result was worse for 14 of 20 test subjects. Therefore, laughter has a demonstrably positive effect on our blood vessels, promoting blood circulation.
Healthy medication at zero cost
We breathe much deeper, the body cells are supplied with more oxygen. At the same time, laughter supports the healing processes. “The brakes are put on the production of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisone, when we laugh. Instead, serotonin – a happiness hormone – is released,” says Christian Rüger. This is not only helpful in the treatment of depression.
So, the next time you hear a good joke, let the punchline work and laugh for all you’re worth. “This is self-medication at zero cost”, – and a tip from the complementary-medicine experts. Incidentally, there is ‘healthcare knowledge to go’ – humorous and suitable for daily use – in crisp and concise form on the official Naturheilzentrum Bottrop YouTube channel. Do not miss out. Subscribe and allow yourselves to enjoy it.