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Thiel: Laughter antidote

I purposely use laughter as a therapeutic modality within my practice.

I have been known to go out to my waiting room and tell my staff that they are not laughing enough. It simply is just good medicine.

Last August, a series of studies were presented at the European Sociology of Cardiology 2011 Congress that showed the importance and the role of laughter, positive thinking and conversely anger and job stress and its effect on future cardiovascular events.

The following is a summary of an article published by Mr. Michael O’Riordan last month.

Dr. Michael Miller, of the University Of Maryland Medical School, was the lead investigator in one of these such studies. He found a direct effect between positive emotional health achieved through laughter, having a direct effect on our vasculature. In his study, he promoted laughter by showing movies that simply made people laugh.

In his study, he compared the physiological effects of humorous verses stressful movies and their subsequent effect on endothelial function of the vasculature status achieved during those states.

He compared the physiological effects of his subjects who watch a 15 minute segment of intense violence as seen in Saving Private Ryan as they stormed the beach at Normandy, to movies such as Something about Mary, Shallow Hal and Kingpin, all of which were comedies.

After watching the war scene in Saving Private Ryan, blood vessels were observed to constrict as much as 50 per cent.

When the subjects watched the comedies they found that there was an opposite effect, one in which dilation occurs in the observer’s vasculature.

The constriction and dilation response happened almost immediately upon observing the two very different scenes.

The authors of the study noted that the vasoconstrictive and vasodilative effects lasted for approximately one hour after watching these separate scenes.

Further studies demonstrated that the vasodilator effects as a benefit of laughter, positively affected the vascular function for as much as 24 hours.

Two other separate studies observed health effects as a result of anger, job stress and depression.

Dr. Tea Lallukka, of the University of Helsinki, observed workers who work more than three hours of overtime per day.

They found an increased risk of coronary heart disease when compared to those who did not work overtime.

In yet another study published by Dr. Franco Bonaguidi, of the Institute of Clinical Physiology in Pisa, Italy, 228 individuals with a history of myocardial infarction were observed.

He was most interested in the effects of sustained anger and recurrent cardiovascular events.

Over the course of his 10 year study, only 21 per cent of the patients who are considered “anger free” as per their psychological profile had myocardial compromise over the course of the study.

There is a stark comparison to the “angry personalities” who had an over 57 per cent likelihood of further cardiovascular compromise.

Dr. Barbara Murphy, of the Royal Melbourne Hospital in Australia, showed that an eight session intervention course focusing on cognitive behaviour therapy, reduced depression in acute myocardial infarction patients substantially.

In addition, the good cholesterol levels were increased substantially. One year after the study had ended the reduction in depression was still greatly maintained.

In her study, she said, “Anxiety and depression are associated with higher morbidity and mortality after a cardiac event, similar to anger, and depressed patients particularly need lots of help with making behavioral changes and managing their state after a cardiac event.”

Once again, laughter, optimism and a positive outlook has been demonstrated to have a profound effect on our overall health.

Essentially, it is a laughing matter. My prescription: Two Seinfelds and one Laurel and Hardy every day.

 

 

Markus Thiel is a chiropractor practicing in Kelowna.

 

askdrthiel@shaw.ca

 

 

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