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Nutrition Column

Laughter as therapy

Over the years, research has proven humor and laughter to be beneficial tonics to health.

A positive outlook raises immune function, reduces stress hormone levels, and improves the bodies response to outside stressors and illness. On the other hand, distress is linked to reduced health and increased risk of disease.

Over three decade ago, in his book Anatomy of an Illness, Norman Cousins wrote how humor and laughter aided his recovery from a life-threatening illness.

Not only can humor and laughter improve bodily function, apparently violence and other mentally stressful situations can adversely impact bodily function.

In a recently published study in the journal Heart, Mike Miller and his colleagues studied the impact of cinematic viewing on blood flow and endothelial function.

The researchers had the subjects watch either stressful scenes from movies, e.g. the opening scene from Saving Private Ryan, while laughter was elicited while watching scenes from movies such as Kingpin or There's Something About Mary.

Those scenes which elicited mental stress reduced blood flow by 35% compared to base-line values. Blood flow was increased by 22% compared to base-line values when laughter was elicited.

Chronic life stressors such as anger, anxiety, and depression have been found to increase the risk of coronary heart disease, in addition to, reducing immune function.

Research has now proven that what you chose to watch, read, ... anything that elicits laughter and positive feeling or anxiety or negative feeling impacts your blood flow, your heart, and your health.

The research by Miller at al. and others speaks to considering what you watch and read and what thought you allow to enter your mind. Apparently those thoughts are affecting more than your brain.