Richard G. Petty, MD

Laughter is The Best Medicine

“Time spent laughing is time spent with the gods.”
–Japanese Proverb

In the book and movie Anatomy of an Illness, Norman Cousins reported how he overcame a sever arthritic condition with a combination of huge doses of vitamin C, together with a positive mental attitude and hours of laughing at Marx Brothers movies. He wrote that, "I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep. When the pain-killing effect of the laughter wore off, we would switch on the motion picture projector again and not infrequently, it would lead to another pain-free interval."

I’ve had a longstanding interest in the vascular endothelium, the single layer of cells that line blood vessels. Some very small blood vessels consist only of endothelial cells. These cells form the interface between the blood and the tissues, and they are involved in many disease processes. They are involved in diabetic vascular disease, arteriosclerosis, inflammation, many infections, and they play a role in the spread of tumors. There is some new evidence that laughter is good for you in more ways than one.

Investigators from University of Maryland School of Medicine found that watching a funny movie had a healthy effect on blood vessel function, allowing them to expand and contract more effectively in response to changes in blood flow. But watching a mentally stressful movie, like a war drama, may have the opposite effect, causing the vascular endothelial cells to narrow and restrict blood flow. On average, artery diameter increased by 22% during laughter and decreased by 35% during mental stress.

This work follows on from earlier research that showed an inverse association between sense of humor and coronary heart disease: people who laughed a lot seemed less likely to suffer form heart disease.

There is a very nice review article available online that confirms what is intuitively obvious humor and laughter may have a positive influence on health and on the outcome of many diseases.

There may be something to the old saying, "You don’t stop laughing because you grow old; You grow old because you stop laughing.”

About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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